What’s Cooking in the Kitchen?

July 7th, 2023

Have you ever wondered how we run our kitchen at House of Dignity? We’re happy to give you a little peek behind the curtain.

Our team of three cooks prepares three meals a day (two on weekends), 365 days a year, averaging 1,800 meals per month. Despite lacking a dishwasher and working in a small kitchen, the cooks work incredibly hard to make sure residents have access to high quality, nourishing meals every day.

Our House of Dignity Program Director, Lola RockwellBrown is very hands-on in running our kitchen. She generally purchases food from Costco Business and Restaurant Depot. For some specialty items, she might order from Amazon, things like polenta, grits, and lentils. Lola also reports on the kitchen to the Alameda County Community Food Bank.

Lola says, “for things like turkey legs and necks, I have to visit a butcher store … I like to shop at Berkeley Bowl [Marketplace] and have a special Jamaican store I go to for spices.”

The cooks maintain a varied menu that includes, but is not limited to, American, Mexican, and Chinese food. Holidays give them a chance to put something special together – they made black eyed peas for New Year’s and recently had a big BBQ for Juneteenth. While they do make new menus every week, residents also play a significant role in shaping meals.

“Everyone says they can work with this population but the chefs find out it’s a unique experience … because [residents] have a military background, they’ll eat anything you put in front of them. But now, being [at HoD], the vets are starting to develop new tastes and are very vocal about it,” says Lola. “Oftentimes I’ll get people coming up to me, unprompted, saying, ‘Oh, man this is so good! You gotta try this!’ Their voice matters in the menu, so we make sure to add things that they like to the regular rotation.”

Lola and the team have worked hard to elevate the kitchen for our residents. According to Lola, the quality level has gone from sub-par to excellent in three years. Still, they strive every day to improve and give back to our veterans. In fact, Lola bought an ice cream maker for the kitchen in June – the team is excited to be able to treat our residents with homemade ice cream!