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November 24, 2015

Our Newest Chef Preps for Thanksgiving

Chef Alonna Tuggles moved to the DC area from Rochester, NY last December to work at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center. On her daily commute, she saw homeless people along the streets and their image moved her to make a change in her life.

“I want to make a difference. I want to keep cooking. How can I do both?” she asked herself.

That's when Alonna remembered Food & Friends. She had volunteered to do meal delivery with Food & Friends in 2012, and it was an experience she never forgot. She checked in to see if the organization had any openings and luckily for all, Food & Friends was looking for a new chef.

Alonna began her role as opening chef on September 8. She arrives each day at 5:15 a.m. to start preparation of the frozen entrees before moving on to cooking the soup. With the help of the other chefs and a team of volunteers, she creates lunch and dinner for thousands of clients. Variations of the meals are made to support all dietary requirements. To provide a sense of the scope of the task, Alonna recently made 75 gallons of seafood chowder and 65 gallons of ratatouille!

However, daily preparations are small in comparison to the Thanksgiving meal Alonna will be making for the first time this year. “I am going to have to say a prayer before work that day,” she jokes. Led by executive chef Mark Locraft, the Food & Friends team will create 3,500 Thanksgiving meals. The meals will include a turkey, sides and pies - all the delicious dishes of a traditional Thanksgiving meal. Thankfully, Alonna will have the support of volunteers, many of whom have some culinary experience, or have volunteered for years and are well-prepared to keep things running smoothly.

What is it like to work in a kitchen that relies on volunteers? “The volunteers want to be here,” Alonna says. “They bring an energy that wakes you up and makes you want to do your own job.”

Thanksgiving is the busiest day at Food & Friends, but Alonna already knows that at the end of it, she will list her role at Food & Friends as one thing she is thankful for this year. “It doesn’t feel like work because of the environment,” Alonna says. “You feel so welcomed in our kitchen. It is definitely ‘food and friends’. It’s such a happy place.”


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