"Why Can't Cooks Cook To Give Back?"
Time. It is elusive in the world of VolunTourism. To think that nearly eighteen months have passed since I first interviewed Christine Carroll, founder of Culinary Corps, it simply does not seem possible. Yet, here we are, beginning a new decade and Christine and her team are opening a new destination for their 'culanthropic' efforts - - Puerto Rico. What started in answer to a short, infinitely provocative question -"What is a chef's role in the community?" - has become the key ingredient for an expanding troupe of voluntourists who utilize their culinary skills in educating young people and operating 'kitchens-without-borders.'
Background & History Of Culinary Corps
Christine Carroll explained the origins of Culinary Corps in my interview with her on 29 July 2008:
'What is the chef's role in the community?'
The 'Culinary Corps' Epiphany
And so, kind of midway through this activity, I put down my paint brush, I put down my roller, looked around, and I saw all these chefs on ladders, paint splattered everywhere, just really not doing a great job painting this hallway. And I was like, 'Wow!' It was like the epiphany was like that light bulb going off, literally, 'Why can't we be cooking for the betterment of the community? That's where our strength lies. Why can't cooks cook to give back?'
Christine Carroll, Founder, Culinary Corps
Philosophy & Vision
Recruiting chefs, cooks, food educators and culinary students, Culinary Corps launches transformational short-term volunteer experiences that address a community’s most critical food challenges: emergency hunger relief, cooking and nutrition education, healthy food access, childhood wellness, and culinary heritage preservation.
The Culinary Corps vision is to enrich lives, fortify communities, and advance civic engagement through culanthropy: food-focused frontline humanitarian aid built upon a community’s own culinary heritage and nonprofit network.
At its core, each Culinary Corps experience is launched to provide necessary support and solidarity to the community served. But beyond the service objectives, it is hoped that every team member departs with a unique connection to the community and a profound realization of their leadership potential outside of the kitchen.
Connecting With Communities
Currently, our efforts have centered on the rebuilding efforts and culinary renaissance of New Orleans, LA and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Since March 2007, Culinary Corps has executed six, week-long service trips to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, connecting over 75 chefs with an intense portfolio of projects including farmers markets, edible schoolyards and emergency feeding centers.
The chefs who have joined Culinary Corps thus far have created over 6,000 meals for the residents of the communities served; mentored 400 local students on the importance of eating healthy, well-sourced food; launched the First Annual Ocean Springs Fresh Food Festival; designed and spearheaded the after-school cooking club “Grow.Cook.Dine” for the Ocean Springs School District; and taught AmeriCorps members how to cook for Habitat for Humanity volunteers.
Puerto Rico Itinerary
"Having seen the impact Culinary Corps and other volunteer efforts had in New Orleans, I am more than elated to work in the Puerto Rican community. We share a lot in common with the people of New Orleans in our spirit, culture and food ways. I think perhaps because we are an island, hospitality has always been an important way of connecting to the world outside. And we do this through our traditions at the table. We live by the motto, “donde comen dos, comen tres” - - 'where two can eat, a third can eat.'
"Our community might not be in an immediate state of emergency like New Orleans post-Katrina, but there are eminent social threats that we face on a daily basis that may negatively alter the course of our future. Easing those problems by bringing people together around a communal table helps to nourish both the community and the volunteers. Ultimately, Culinary Corps will use their skills in the kitchen as a tool for change." (Viviana Acosta-Padial, San Jaun, Puerto Rico)
Tentative Service Projects
• Habitat for Humanity PR: Catering major fundraising event for the fledgling organization complete with interactive cooking demonstrations to entertain the crowd.
• Bill’s Kitchen: Re-designing healthy menu items for HIV clinic kitchen and hands-on cooking class for resident with HIV/AIDS.
• Sapientis: Cooking and nutrition enrichment activity for at-risk youth.
• Hogar Ruth: Work with the leadership and residents of this women and children’s shelter to create a cookbook of family recipes for their fundraising efforts. Activities will include recipe capture, testing and serving a sit-down dinner
for all the residents.
• Iniciativa Comunitaria: Work with at-risk teens to create a meal for HIV/AIDS patients for distribution throughout San Juan. Meals will be delivered by chefs in a mobile “kitchen bus” in the evening.
• VIDAS: Working as kitchen mentors to underprivileged youth in San Juan.
Tentative Culinary Education Events
• Farm Tour (Hydroponic Lettuce Operation “Arbola”) and Traditional Lunch in Cayey
• Cooking Demonstration by “TOP CHEF MASTER” Chef Wilo Benet and dinner at Varita
• Tour of Central Market in San Juan (Plaza del Mercado de Santurce y Rio Piedras) with Slow Food Puerto Rico.
• Guavate Roast Pig Route Road Trip
• Day Trip to Explore the Flavors of Piñones and Loiza
[Return To The Top]