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Skid Row Does Thanksgiving With The Help Of L.A.'s Top Chefs

Sara Newman |
November 27, 2013 | 9:48 p.m. PST

Associate News Editor


Thousands turn out for Thanksgiving on Skid Row (Sara Newman)
Thousands turn out for Thanksgiving on Skid Row (Sara Newman)
At 4 AM the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, Daisy Franklin and Ramona Trevino are already lined up on the corner of Fifth and Wall Street to ensure that they are among the 3500 guests who get to enjoy the Los Angeles Mission’s annual Thanksgiving feast. Despite the frigid 60 degree weather, the two women are complaint free, excited to try the meal that celebrity chefs would spend the next seven hours working on alongside the mission’s residents and holiday volunteers. 

In 1936, the Los Angeles Mission was founded as Skid Row’s first facility focused on meeting the food, shelter, and rehabilitation needs of the local homeless population. 

Run entirely from private donations, the mission owes the success for this annual event in large part to Wells Fargo Bank, who pledged between 50 and 60 thousand dollars to put on the event, according to Herb Smith, the CEO and President of the Los Angeles Mission. 

“We also wanted to engage with the Los Angeles food community,” said Smith. “Initially we asked them to share recipes with us that we would then prepare, but they said ‘no, we’ll do it.” So the chefs came up with the recipes, helped cook them, and in some cases personally donated ingredients.” 

Volunteers from Wells Fargo rolled up their sleeves and slid into aprons alongside shelter residents and a number of Los Angeles’s top restaurateurs, while Chef Michael Voltaggio orchestrated the event. 

“[Voltaggio] was here last year and liked it so much that he came back and brought some of his friends,” Smith.

Top Chef winner and owner of West Hollywood hot-spot, Ink, Voltaggio recruited fellow chefs Suzanne Goin (Lucques, A.O.C.), Josef Centeno (Baco Mercat, Orsa & Winston), Ray Garcia (FIG), Steve Samson (Sotto), Josiah Citrin (Mélisse), and Duff Goldman (Charm City Cakes, Cake Mix) to prepare a gourmet meal of Thanksgiving comfort foods for the Mission’s patrons. Even Neil Patrick Harris came by to help in the kitchen, chatting with chefs and volunteers about his personal loathing of the infamous ducky tie from How I Met Your Mother. 

For these elite chefs—some of whom are used to preparing fanciful plates that blur the lines between food and art, serving fewer than a hundred diners per night—serving over three thousand diners in just a few hours is an entirely different game. Yet the goal was the same; the event was intended to make people feel as if “they were dining in these fancy restaurants that a majority of the Mission’s patrons will never get to personally visit,” according to Smith. 

All in all, chefs worked with the mission staff and volunteers to prepare over 1.5 tons of turkey breast; 700 lbs. of  chestnut, sage and mushroom stuffing, 80 gallons of gravy; sweet potatoes seasoned with bacon and spinach; thousands of sesame orange glazed carrots; half a ton of mashed potatoes with crème fraiche and garlic confit; 3500 servings of citrus cranberry sauce; 4000 dinner rolls; and 600 pumpkin and apple pies with cinnamon pecan whipped cream. 

“It’s not just a meal; it’s really about the services here,” said Smith.

While the gourmet feast was the big selling point for most volunteers and mission patrons, the event also included free flu shots, foot washing, socks, blankets, and tarps to help those living on the streets fend of sickness and cold in the harsh winter months. 

“There are a lot of people who come out to these events who don’t have insurance or who wouldn’t otherwise seek out preventative care, so this is the perfect time to help them,” said Rosalba Gutierrez, who was giving flu shots with the Department of Public Health. “After they get a flu shot one time, they often get better about seeking it out on their own as part of a yearly habit in the future.”  

Contact News Editor Sara Newman here. Tweet her here.




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