As many of you know, I love New Orleans. More than a year after the devastation of Katrina, I decided to run a half-marathon in the Crescent City in an effort to raise funds for a charity of my choice. The problem was that I didn’t know which charity to support. I asked my good buddy Brooks Hamaker for a list of charities, and among those was Café Reconcile.
I like to contribute to charities that invest in people. Sure, I’ll give money to Habitat for Humanity and to the arts, but the lion’s share of our charitable contributions go to organizations that offer programs to improve the lives of others. Heck, I’m the Vice Chair of the Lucy Daniels Center for Early Childhood, a world-class organization that promotes the healthy emotional development of young children (and a tremendous organization if you’re looking for a cause!).
Café Reconcile also invests in people by giving at-risk youth an opportunity to learn life and interpersonal skills and operational training for successful entry into the hospitality and restaurant industries. New Orleans needs skilled workers to support its vital restaurant industry, and Cafe Reconcile plays a major part in that development. Café Reconcile is an honest to goodness restaurant, serving honest to goodness down-home food. Trainees work the kitchen and the front of the house. They learn about the business of the industry. And then Café Reconcile help find their people jobs. Some folks, like Emeril Lagasse, actively recruit Café Reconcile grads.
I spent a couple of hours with Craig Cuccia, the co-founder of Café Reconcile, shortly after the half-marathon, as we had raised a nice amount of money for the organization. He told me about the plans to grow Reconcile, to train youths not only in the hospitality industry, but also construction and film (a lot of movies are filmed in New Orleans). At no point, however, did he ever consider a program like Reconcile existing in another city.
That’s about to change.
As reported earlier this week in the Charlotte Observer, chef and restaurateur Jim Noble and other local dignitaries will be opening a nonprofit restaurant that is modeled after Café Reconcile. The new establishment, to be named “The King’s Kitchen,” will employ, train and minister to troubled youth, graduates of rehabilitation programs and the unemployed. The restaurant will have more of a religious bent to it than Café Reconcile, which has some ties to the Catholic church, but ultimately, the King’s Kitchen will be all about supporting those in need, which is something we can all get behind. And the fact that they’ll be making what is claimed to be the “best pan-fried chicken in the Southeast” won’t hurt, either!
So if you’re looking to support a food-based charity, consider helping out the King’s Kitchen.