Chefs with a Mission cook up educational programs, video series

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Laura Stetser/Chef Robert Seidel, with the assistance of his son, begin filming Tuesday, July 22. Laura Stetser/Chef Robert Seidel, with the assistance of his son, begin filming Tuesday, July 22.

EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP – Chef Robert Seidel was presented with the same dilemma that many home cooks face: He had to use what was in the pantry.

A whole turkey too big for one meal and orange soda were some of the items available at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey during the week of July 21.

Working on a special project for the FoodBank as part of Chefs with a Mission, Seidel was videotaping a cooking program on how the typical family can stretch the groceries they bring home from the food bank and improvise with ingredients they find there.

 

“Instead of just putting the orange soda in the fridge for the kids to drink, we are going to use it as a sauce for the turkey breast,” he said as he poured the soda into a saucepan. He showed the small group gathered how to portion the whole turkey into four separate meals.

Chefs with a Mission is a volunteer group of executive chefs and other members who work together to improve the quality and quantity of food served to poor and displaced people throughout the country. It was founded by chefs Bob Harre of Seaville and Ron Kollman of Egg Harbor Township, who had worked together on several food service projects with local homeless shelters and human service facilities. They found a great need to improve how the nutritional needs of disadvantaged citizens are met.

The charity uses its resource of professionals to work with nonprofits to improve their supplies, provide training and planning, and demonstrate techniques that will stretch resources that the organizations are already gathering.

Kollman and the team of chefs meet weekly at the Berkshire Grill in Egg Harbor Township to film educational cooking videos, which can be viewed on their website, www.chefswithamission.org. The videos show families how to use common and uncommon ingredients in a way that allows them to stretch their grocery dollars, he said.

“We are all about educating the community,” he said. Chefs with a Mission also donates money to its nonprofit partners, such as the FoodBank.

The videos provide pantry tips and cooking techniques, such as how to properly cut a turkey into smaller portions for use in separate meals and what it means to sauté. Laura Stetser/Chef Robert Seidel ‘shops’ at the FoodBank for the ingredients he needs during the filming. Laura Stetser/Chef Robert Seidel ‘shops’ at the FoodBank for the ingredients he needs during the filming.

Laura Stetser/Evelyn Benton, executive director of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, accepts a $1,000 check from the Chefs with a Mission organization Tuesday, July 22. Laura Stetser/Evelyn Benton, executive director of the Community FoodBank of New Jersey, accepts a $1,000 check from the Chefs with a Mission organization Tuesday, July 22. The video library could be especially helpful to those who use the Community FoodBank. Executive director Evelyn Benton said the films will be shown in the waiting room while people wait for their chance to select goods.

“We are hoping that the films will encourage our consumers to take more produce,” she said.

Often, lower-income users don’t select fresh fruits and vegetables because they are either uncertain how to use it, do not have an affinity for it, or find it is not as shelf-stable as other items, she said.

“They see is as a waste of money.”

Videos like the one being filmed Tuesday, July 22 by Jorge Barreto of Waterford, executive chef at Assaggio! Italian Cuisine, Steak and Seafood in Galloway, are designed to change their minds about those foods.

Plantains were one of the fresh items available at the FoodBank that week, so he filmed a video on how to make fried plantains and a traditional dipping sauce for them. 

“The chefs teach them what the benefits of each ingredient is and what to do with it,” Benton said. “Education is key. It’s what lifts people up.”

All of the filmings, which are now open and free to the public and groups, are held Tuesdays at the Berkshire Grill, which has donated the space to the organization. See the website for times to be announced. The group plans to offer weekly lunches at the cooking demonstrations as a way to raise funds.

Berkshire Grill owner Brian O’Keeney of Egg Harbor Township said he was happy to help the organization.

“It was a good fit for us as well,” he said. “We get to have the input of these chefs (for our menus). We get to have them available for brainstorming and they share their experience, which helps our mission as well.”

Jorge Barreto of Waterford, who is the executive chef at Assaggio! Italian Cuisine, Steak and Seafood in Galloway, teaches the audience how to cook fried plantains while Chef Robert Seidel assists. Jorge Barreto of Waterford, who is the executive chef at Assaggio! Italian Cuisine, Steak and Seafood in Galloway, teaches the audience how to cook fried plantains while Chef Robert Seidel assists. Chefs with a Mission plans to hold a series of dining events and to sell its own brand of chef-created spices to raise money for its mission.

The kickoff event, Dining al Fresco for Charity, will be held 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 5 at the Berkshire Grill, 6105 Black Horse Pike, Egg Harbor Township. The dinner will start with hors d’oeuvres 6-7 p.m. followed by a buffet dinner 7-8:30 p.m.

Some of the area’s celebrated chefs and food experts will have tasting stations and give wine presentations. The menu will highlight many dishes that can be prepared for the health conscious with “discerning taste” using local produce.

The price is $50 per person, with the proceeds going to the charity. Tickets are available online and at the door.

Videos on topics such as limited means, budget conscious, specific dietary concerns and large-quantity cooking can be viewed for free at www.chefswithamission.org.

Laura Stetser/The finished product of the fried plantains is a beautiful and quickly prepared dish. Laura Stetser/The finished product of the fried plantains is a beautiful and quickly prepared dish.


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