How a Louisville chef is popping donated meals into frozen meals for folks in want

Jesse Perkins, the innovation sous chef at Dare to Care, who leads efforts to make frozen meals for seniors out of donated meals, pours spaghetti into water at Dare to Care’s kitchen.

Jesse Perkins was nonetheless new to his job as Dare to Care’s innovation sous chef when he obtained an surprising supply from the meals financial institution’s warehouse: 60 instances of hominy.

The ingredient, constructed from corn kernels which have gone by way of a chemical course of, is a staple of Mexican delicacies. However not everyone seems to be accustomed to it.

Perkins’ job: turning it into meals that may be frozen and despatched to shoppers countywide.

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The meals are a part of a brand new program from the established nonprofit, which started experimenting with them across the begin of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meals financial institution makes the meals out there to 5 associate companies, which distribute them with contemporary produce and different meals gadgets to folks in want.

Perkins was employed to guide this system in summer time 2020. As soon as his staff ramps up manufacturing, the meals will probably be out there to extra companions, together with a number of senior housing complexes.

Perkins stated this system reduces waste whereas making meals extra accessible to individuals who haven’t got the time, tools or area wanted to prepare dinner their very own meals.

“We do not need somebody to undergo nutritionally as a result of they do not have the instruments that they want,” stated Annette Ball, chief packages officer for Dare to Care, including that Perkins has been instrumental to getting the pilot program off the bottom.

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Although Perkins is new to Dare to Care, he is not new to cooking with donated gadgets.

He beforehand labored at a pay-what-you-can restaurant in Tennessee that made meals out of something it might get.

Earlier than that, Perkins had labored at conventional eating places that required lengthy hours and left little time for household. He started taking courses in social work earlier than touchdown on the nonprofit cafe, which mixed each his passions.

Jesse Perkins, the innovation sous chef at Dare to Care, who leads efforts to make frozen meals for seniors out of donated food.

Jesse Perkins, the innovation sous chef at Dare to Care, who leads efforts to make frozen meals for seniors out of donated meals.

At that restaurant, he discovered rapidly there have been limits to what clients would and would not eat.

“I couldn’t get folks to eat a gazpacho,” he stated. “It isn’t what folks need, even when they’re getting it free of charge.”

Perkins stated he discovered folks needed meals that had been comforting and acquainted. At Dare to Care, which moved its headquarters to Parkland in 2020, that is what he tries to function a lot as attainable.

What Perkins cooks will depend on what comes into the nonprofit’s warehouse. Typically that is 10,000 kilos of pork. Different instances it is a truckload of butternut squash that is about to go unhealthy.

“For some time, I believed they had been messing with me,” Perkins stated of the warehouse staff who saddled him with sufficient hominy to make 1000’s of servings of pozole, a Mexican soup.

“I believe we bought 600 kilos of contemporary jalapeños, they usually had been scorching — like actually, actually scorching. … What we ended up doing with that was we dehydrated a ton of them, then we have now a jalapeño powder that we sprinkle a bit bit right here and there.”

Every meal made by the innovation staff is packaged in particular person serving containers and run by way of the “Oliver” machine — named for the model of the tools — which seals it.

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The meals are labeled with substances and dietary info, then frozen earlier than heading again to the warehouse.

This system has been sluggish to take off due to the pandemic, which pressured Dare to Care to focus extra on simply getting meals out the door, Ball stated.

However within the close to future, the nonprofit hopes to start cranking out extra meals, together with for seniors with dietary restrictions, she stated.

Dare to Care can be testing freeze-dried meals that could possibly be changed into meals with scorching water — one thing people who find themselves unhoused might carry with them simply.

With the nonprofit’s state-of-the-art kitchen, Perkins stated, the improvements are limitless.

All it takes is a artistic thoughts to cleared the path.

Attain reporter Bailey Loosemore at [email protected], 502-582-4646 or on Twitter @bloosemore.

This text initially appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Chef turns meals donations into frozen meals at Louisville meals financial institution