TRAVERSE CITY — Shannon Woods bounced from jail to a rehabilitation facility to the Goodwill Inn kitchen.
“I love cooking,” said Woods, a recovering drug addict who is training with MI Fresh Start Catering Services for a career in the food service industry. “That’s how I express my love: making people happy, chubby.”
The fast-growing catering services are a food program of Goodwill Industries of Northern Michigan. The program, which caters everything from birthday parties to board meetings, launched last year with about $500 in monthly business and now boasts between $5,000 and $8,000 in monthly business, said Brandon Seng, director of food programs.
More important, it provides on-the-job training for people like Woods, whose struggle with drugs made it difficult at times to hold down a job.
“It’s not just catering,” said Seng, who founded and directed the Manistee Community Kitchen before joining Goodwill in February. “It’s more training individuals who are living with disabilities and disadvantages and who have been out of the work force for five to 10 years.”
Woods and two others she lives with at an Addiction Treatment Services transition house recently began five weeks of food service training that will take them through the busy holiday catering season. They’ll follow training with three months of paid internship.
“We’re all eager to live a better way of life,” said Woods, 43, who hopes to parlay her training into a career in restaurant management.
The catering services are run with the help of Goodwill head chef Tom Harrington; sous chef Kerry Fulcher, a graduate of Northwestern Michigan College’s Great Lakes Culinary Institute; and food program coordinator Tammy Donnelly. Seng said the program plans to hire a pastry chef by the end of the week — just in time for the holiday season.
So far its “niche” is catering to other nonprofits like the City Opera House and TART Trails, said Donnelly. But officials hope to extend the program’s reach to more individuals and businesses.
Holiday events, like the Grand Traverse County Commission on Aging’s annual Christmas breakfast, account for about 35 percent of catering services, Seng estimated. COA Chairman Ralph Soffredine “loves our Scottish eggs,” said Donnelly, referring to hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage.
Other popular dishes on the catering menu include egg casserole, French toast bake, scones, soups and box lunches, Harrington said.
“It’s homemade, homestyle food that everyone can enjoy. But there’s a lot of people that order things that aren’t on the menu,” from appetizers to desserts, he said.
Special diets also can be accommodated.
Seng said the focus is on locally sourced products, including as many items as possible from Goodwill’s new “Farm to Freezer” program. That job training initiative buys local produce in bulk, and processes and freezes it for sale to schools, feeding programs and other institutional food buyers.
Harrington offers the following recipes for holiday gatherings. But to have your event catered for a cause, call MI (pronounced “My”) Fresh Start Catering Services at 492-6350. Proceeds support the program and other Goodwill workforce development programs, said Ruth Blick, Goodwill’s director of marketing and communications.
Roasted Pork Loin with Cranberry Chutney
1 5-lb. pork loin
2 T. salt
1 T. pepper
1 T. garlic
1 T. ground rosemary
1 t. thyme
1 12-oz. bag cranberries
1/4 c. orange juice
1/4 c. apple cider vinegar
3/4 c. white sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 small red onion
1 T. cooking oil
1 apple, peeled and cored
1 pear, peeled and cored
Preheat oven to 350°. Place pork loin on a sheet pan lined with parchment. Mix together in a bowl the salt, pepper, garlic, rosemary and thyme. Rub the mixture all over the pork loin. Wrap with foil and bake for 1 hour. Unwrap pork and return to oven for 15-20 minutes to brown the outside. Internal temperature should be above 145°. Remove from oven and let rest for 5-10 minutes. While pork is cooking, heat oil in a sauce pan and brown onion over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Add chopped apple and pear. Continue to cook for 5 more minutes or until apples are softened. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook 15-20 minutes or until cranberries are cooked. Slice pork loin and serve. Spoon chutney over pork.
Butternut Squash Soup
3 lbs. cooked butternut squash
2 qts. chicken stock
4 large sweet onions, chopped
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 t. cinnamon
2 t. ground ginger
1 t. salt
1 t. black pepper
You can use fresh or precooked squash in this recipe. If using fresh, preheat oven to 350°. Halve the squashes and scoop out seeds with a spoon. Place squash halves cut side down on a parchment lined sheet pan and bake for 45 minutes. Allow to cool. In stock pot place chopped onion, chicken stock, salt, pepper, cinnamon and ginger. Bring to boil and cook 15 minutes or until onion is cooked. Add brown sugar to onion mix and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add cooked squash to mixture in stock pot and run through food processor until smooth. You will have to do this in batches, making sure to use cooking liquid while blending. After all is blended, add half-and-half and stir well. Put soup on the stove and simmer until heated through. Serve immediately. Leftovers can be saved for a couple of days. Makes roughly 1 gallon.