Most memorable moment at Kitchens for Good: One of my most memorable moments at KFG was The Wasted Event that was held down at the Jacobs Center.. It was pretty awesome to see all the different Chef’s within our Community, come together and Compete against one another, and use our students help cook and create these dishes using kitchen scraps you would normally not use to create some pretty amazing dishes!
Our Community of Chef’s And Cooks are Awesome!!!
A funny cooking memory: I Have to say one of the Funniest cooking memories would be with my Gram.. We would always shop at a fruit farm in Poway, buying local seasonal fruit.. Well we purchased a ton of grapes this one day and my Gram decided we we’re going to make wine the Italian way.. You guessed it! We had a kiddie Pool freshly clean feet and I had to stomp the Grapes to make the wine!I still chuckle at this..
Favorite part of your day: My favorite part of my day is when apprentices bring up their dishes for me to try!
Favorite kitchen gadget or tool: A SPOON! It’s the most versatile tool in the kitchen. I love my spoon collection.
Content & Strategy Manager
Most memorable moment at Kitchens for Good: The day we won the $450,000 California Community Reinvestment Grant was a big accomplishment and a great moment for me.
Favorite kitchen gadget: The Instant Pot is so versatile, especially with the air fryer lid I got for Christmas! Or my good old cast iron skillets.
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: What I enjoy most is how we help people accomplish what they come to school for. I love how always keep doors open. I also love the warmth and love staff give each other. We are family.
A funny cooking memory: My favorite cooking memory I have is the one time the students had an hotdog eating contest it was so much fun.
Favorite part of your day: Watching people get so excited about the treasures they have found at the Kitchens for Good Shop.
Favorite Kitchen Gadget: OXO Good Grips Garlic Slicer and no, I am not a rep for this company.
Director of Programs
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: I love when apprentices share their work success stories! It’s so inspiring to hear that someone has taken the skills they worked so hard to develop during their classroom training and are now exceling at a local restaurant.
A funny cooking memory: I tried to make a cake for my Mom’s birthday when I was about 8. I wanted it to be a surprise so I got up early and did it by myself, but I didn’t understand the difference between baking powder and baking soda. So it was a very flat cake, and I was so upset! She was still happy but I’ll never forget the lesson – ask questions if you don’t know something!
Favorite Part of Your Day: Getting to interact with the PB community (& their dogs!) Everyone is so kind, laid back, and supportive of our mission and what we are doing at the shop. Love the beach life vibes here! Such an amazing community to be a part of.
Most unusual food you’ve tried: Years ago while in Singapore I tried a balut flavored candy. I didn’t love it but it was interesting to try :)
Director of Human Resources
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: Being part of a team that is truly is committed to the success of the apprentices.
Favorite kitchen gadget: Tostonera
Career Services Coordinator
Favorite part of your day: Towards the afternoon time/end of class, when the students are completing their dishes for the day. Seeing how happy/proud/ecstatic they are with their final product never fails to put a smile on my face. Not to mention the taste tests!
Favorite kitchen gadget: Homemade ice cream ball
Individual Giving Manager
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: Between connecting with apprentices, working alongside amazing coworkers, chatting with our donors, and eating incredible food, working at Kitchens for Good hardly feels like work at all!
Favorite kitchen gadget: A Salad Spinner & a Santoku Knife
Director of Operations
Favorite part of your day: Working with the Apprentice and watching them grow and succeed is my favorite part of being a part of the KFG team. It is an honor to show up everyday and see what impact I can bring to help our Apprentice and team members continue to offer as much support to our internal and external partners that make KFG successful.
A funny cooking memory: KFG is a training environment and it allows for a lot of opportunities to try again and again. I have always enjoyed watching the Apprentice cook eggs 9 ways. They had no idea how hard it is to get the perfect egg, but they learn that you stick with it and you will get to your perfect egg :)
Favorite part of your day: The best part of my day is our morning check-ins with the KFG team and Apprentices. Some mornings are filled with laughter and some with tears, but it is such a valuable part of getting to know each other, building trust, and recognizing we are all here for the greater good.
Favorite kitchen gadget: Love my air fryer! I picked it up from the KFG Shop in Pacific Beach, and then spent the following 6 months air frying the life out of everything. Unsure what to do with boring ol chicken? Air fry it. Pancakes? Air fry it. Pickles? Air fry it. The options are endless!
Most memorable moment at Kitchens for Good: My most memorable moment at KFG was during the early days (end of 2020 during the height of COVID), I remember the great energy at the first “Mock Cafe” (Cafe 404) at the Jacob’s Center. It was the first time KFG had tried this and one of the first times people were venturing outside of their homes. It was such a good learning experience for the Apprentices. I still remember, our Apprentice Tony’s rice bowl – they all created a special dish on the menu. It was an awesome time!
Favorite kitchen gadget: That terracotta brown sugar keeper thing – no one likes hard brown sugar! Or a good quality Japanese-style Santoku knife. :)
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: The best part of the program is seeing the progress made. I love seeing those “lightbulb” moments when the apprentices fully understand a concept and technique. I truly enjoy when promoted apprentices come back and share their experiences and how they are continuing to grow.
Most unusual food you’ve tried: My grandmother used to make pickled pigs feet. I remember many times coming into her kitchen and seeing the pig trotters hanging out. This was never something that my friends would eat or enjoy, but I loved the jellied, vinegary flavor and texture and think about it often.
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: I love getting to be part of an inspiring and determined group of people who are willing to overcome a lot for their dreams.
Favorite kitchen gadget: A bread knife! OR a gluggle jug…if you know, you know.
Favorite part of your day: My favorite part of the day is being able to interact with some of the amazing volunteers and costumers that we have everyday at the shop!
Most unusual food you’ve tried: The most unusual food I have tried was a 1000 year old egg, or a persevered duck egg. I am always up for trying new foods and that one was definitely an experience!
Most memorable moment at Kitchens for Good: Being provided the opportunity to Introduce and recognize the apprentice’s accomplishments during the promotion ceremony.
Favorite kitchen gadget: The Robo Coup is one of my favorite kitchen machines. it is a powerful and versatile piece of kitchen equipment. This workhorse can slice, dice, grate, make a sauce, and much more.
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: Our mission and the people that I work with.
Favorite kitchen gadget: My favorite kitchen tool would be a whisk.
Favorite part of your day: My favorite part of the day is when a customer comes in and they say “I love this store, it’s my favorite place to shop”.
Favorite kitchen gadget: My favorite kitchen tool is my KitchenAid Mixer.
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: I like working for Kitchens for Good because my north star is bettering our clients’ lives not boosting stock holders’ profits.
A funny cooking memory: As a kid I loved baking cookies. Once my glasses slid out of a pocket into the oven. The frames melted into the shape of a snake and startled me!
Chief Financial Officer
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: Promotion/Graduation days are my favorite. Attending Kitchen for Good’s first graduation is the reason I decided to join the team, and it’s the reason I’m still here many years later! It’s a great chance for all the staff to come together to celebrate the apprentices and our impact.
Most unusual food you’ve tried: Fish eyes! This was at the recommendation of Tommy Gomes, the fishmonger that leads the fish fabrication lessons at Kitchens for Good. Can’t say I would do it again.
Most memorable moment at Kitchens for Good: A favorite memory of mine is participating in Burger Challenge as a judge to experience the burger creations of all of the apprentices. It’s heartwarming to see what these individuals create and the stories behind their burger inventions!
A funny cooking memory: If you would like a funny cooking memory with me, feel free to ask me to help you cook because I don’t.
Chief Executive Officer
Most memorable moment at Kitchens for Good: On September 15, 2015, Kitchens for Good signed its first lease for a kitchen and onboarded 34 employees. We had about $25,000 in the bank, and the need to be successful was never more apparent.
Favorite kitchen gadget: My vintage cast aluminum garlic press. It’s so sturdy and has lasted 30 years. Plus, it has contributed to some of my favorite meals and provided endless fun for my kids during their playdough phase.
What do you enjoy most about Kitchens for Good: That we are more like family than co workers. I’m so big on family.
A funny cooking memory: Don’t really have a funny one but my favorite memory is just all eating together and talking about life
Favorite part of your day at KFG: My favorite part of the day is when the apprentices take what they just learned in class, apply it in the kitchen, and then get so excited to share their dish. Especially on potato day. They make potato dishes you’ve never even heard of and they’re all amazing!
Favorite kitchen gadget or tool: By far my favorite cooking gadget is my Air Fryer. You can cook anything!
What do you enjoy most about KFG: I enjoy the kind and dedicated community of KFG the most.
Most unusual food you’ve tried: I ate crickets from the candy store once! They were seasoned like sour cream chips and had a very weird crunch to them.
Career Services Coordinator
What do you enjoy most about KFG: I enjoy learning new recipes and cooking techniques from all of our fantastic chef instructors.
Most unusual food you’ve tried: Australian Green Tree Ants.
James is our newest team member and marinating a perfectly seasoned bio. Stay tunned!
Don is an award-winning journalist, a certified culinarian, and culinary educator. He is the current president of the board of directors of the Chefs de Cuisine Education Foundation, a board member of the Chefs de Cuisine Association of San Diego, and a member of the American Culinary Federation. He also serves on the Advisory Board of the Mesa College Culinary Arts Program.
The “Cooking With Chefs” series he designed and coordinates, focuses on students attending schools in underserved San Diego neighborhoods. Youngsters are provided with healthy recipes, recipe ingredients and lessons on cooking, food safety, and nutrition as part of an effort to combat the high incidence of childhood obesity and childhood diabetes in many of these communities.
Kitchens For Good is an important component of who he is and what he does. On a daily basis, the program proves that individuals can overcome mistakes and poor decision making to achieve positive, dynamic, lifechanging successes. The Kitchen For Good staff and the apprentices they serve make a major personal commitment to reach goals that transcend culinary skills and become empowered to create generational excellence for themselves and their families. The essential passion here goes beyond culinary skills training and further than job placement in the food service industry. It inspires everyone involved with the organization to reshape the way we see ourselves and the way we view and interact with the world around us.
Catherine Blair is a retired Dean and Director of College Counseling from the Bishop’s School in La Jolla. After her retirement, she started Hummingbird Needlepoint, where she designs and paints original needlepoint canvases.
More than any other organization she has been associated with, Kitchens for Good most embodies the proverb, “give a person a fish they eat for a day; teach them HOW to fish and they eat for a lifetime.” Kitchens for Good has been teaching people kitchen and hospitality skills as well as necessary life skills to help them not just eat, but pay the rent, take care of their families, and be self-sufficient for the past eight years. Their journeys on the way to finding Kitchens for Good have often been very difficult and disheartening. Just getting to our door is a huge accomplishment for many. Catherine is always re-energized by attending one of the Kitchens for Good “Promotion Days” where students are honored as they finish their classroom course and embark on their paid on-the-job training in one of many professional kitchens in the area. Hearing their stories and seeing the pride of their families and friends shows that they have already done so much more than learned how to fish.
Mike is principal of Bottle Rocket Advisors, a business consultancy focused on helping companies grow sales, improve profitability, and scale up. Over the years, he has served on ten boards of for-profit and non-profit organizations. In addition, Mike has worked as a mentor of emerging entrepreneurs for Banco Santander Global X Award, Chairmen’s RoundTable, San Diego Sport Innovators, and TrepCamp of Mexico. He was founder of a cycling products company, and served as EVP Strategy, EVP Chief Financial Officer, and VP Marketing at WD-40 Company. He also held finance, marketing, and sales roles with Eli Lilly. He is co-host of What I Wish I Knew with Mike Irwin & Simon Daw where he and his UK-based partner share life lessons from conversations with educators, entrepreneurs, and difference makers.
Kitchens For Good works at the intersection of second chances and sustainability. By providing professional training and life skills, Kitchens for Good helps their apprentices achieve meaningful careers to support themselves and their families. It’s a mission of lasting impact that becomes evident with each new class and promotion ceremony. Mike is inspired by the apprentices who go through the program and the Kitchens for Good team who make it all happen.
Gabriel “Bobby” Ramirez has more than 30 years of experience in the food and beverage industry, including over 20 years of partnership with the San Diego Convention Center. He excels at providing strategic operations, growth, and performance, and has a passion for creating memorable catered experiences. Over the years, Bobby has led teams of more than 1,100 employees for several events.
For more than 4 years, Bobby has served on the board for Kitchens for Good. He recognizes the positive impact that elevating one’s life skills can have on the community and is committed to supporting community outreach programs, producing sustainable events, and encouraging those in the local industry through apprenticeship and job placement. Bobby finds his work with Kitchens for Good inspiring and gratifying.
Jess brings a unique perspective to our board of directors from her varied career at the intersection of social enterprise, philanthropy, and politics. Jess has an advanced understanding of San Diego’s food system landscape, with past roles including Director of Strategic Initiatives for Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation, Director of Strategic Initiatives for Price Philanthropies, and co-founder of San Diego Food Funders. She also worked closely with the City of San Diego and the San Diego Promise Zone as the Community Liaison for the Federal Government.
Prior to her work in San Diego, Jess served in the White House Office of Social Innovation and Civic Participation where she supported the creation of the Impact Economy agenda to examine how public policy can increase impact investing, scale social and hybrid enterprises, and expand corporate social responsibility. Jess has a JD from George Washington University Law School and a BA in Anthropology and Political Science from Wellesley College. She is currently at Rady Children’s Hospital Foundation. Jess originally became involved with Kitchens for Good because of its business model. With her background in impact investing, she wanted to make a local impact by helping local social enterprises succeed. She is continually inspired by Kitchens for Good’s ability to grow, through its diversified revenue streams of donations and earned income, as well as their laser-focus on apprentices and making an impact in San Diego.
Ms. Henken’s work focuses on fostering organizational growth, social impact and system change through social innovation and entrepreneurship. For the last 9 years, Ms. Henken has served as adjunct faculty at University of San Diego, teaching social innovation, design thinking and social entrepreneurship at the Kroc School and the School of Business. She is also a visiting professor at University of California, San Diego and in Colombia, working with two universities. She works with regional and global social enterprises, NGOs and corporations to help them advance their success through sustainable business models and serves on several boards.
For over 20 years, Ms. Henken served as the founder and principal of Henken & Associates, helping businesses and nonprofits develop market opportunities, partnerships, growth strategies and sustainable revenue models to expand their impact. She spent 20+ years in Silicon Valley as an executive in high technology management, launching and growing international operations and partnerships for a wide range of companies from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. She holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business and a BA from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
Karen joined the board of Kitchens for Good because she believes in the transformational power of providing second chances. The power of food to change lives and culinary careers to create a sustainable living are one of the greatest opportunities that Kitchens for Good has created for those challenged by barriers to employment. Her vision for Kitchens for Good is to scale our solutions to provide culinary workforce opportunities to serve thousands facing these challenges across our region and beyond.
Sally is a seasoned operations leader who has a passion for operational excellence ~ fascinated by processes and inspired by the people who bring it all to life.
Over her 20+ years in operations, she has led diverse teams in dynamic, multi-unit environments in hospitality, service, and fulfillment industries. In her most recent role with Marriott International, Sally had overall responsibility for the operational excellence strategy for US + Canada locations. Her team implemented innovative process improvement initiatives affecting all areas of hotel operations, helping leaders achieve best-in-class results, while elevating customer experience and employee engagement.
Sally holds a B.A. in Business Analysis from Texas A&M University. She is a Certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt, Kaizen Sensei, and an overall process nerd.
Drawn to the mission of transforming lives through culinary arts, Sally joined the Kitchens for Good Board to grow connections and be an advocate of change in the industry. She is excited about the work Kitchens for Good does daily to develop sustainable solutions that positively impact our economy, our society, and our environment. Sally is honored to be a part of the growing Kitchens for Good community, helping people facing barriers to employment gain the skills they need to launch meaningful careers.
Howard Solomon is a hospitality industry veteran with a broad background encompassing over 40 years in restaurants and over 30 years in executive leadership roles. Howard worked his way up in the restaurant business from dishwasher to every level of management. He held company leadership roles with Hard Rock Café, Cheesecake Factory and Wolfgang Puck Food Company. Recently, Howard served as the VP of Operations, People and Culture for Phil’s BBQ, an iconic brand in San Diego; and Chief Operating Officer for Grain + Grit Collective, the operators of several brands including Sam the Cooking Guy’s restaurant concepts.
In 1995, Howard founded a restaurant consulting company, The Solomon Group, and for the next 18 years created over 25 unique restaurant concepts, as well as set-up restaurant and financial operations. During this time, Howard was also an instructor at San Diego State University, teaching in the Hotel and Tourism Management department, Member of the Food & Beverage Association and California Restaurant Association, Vice President of Temple Adat Shalom, and board member of SBEAC (a task force committee of the Employment Development Division, State of California)
Howard has always sought out leadership roles that would impact the lives of others, which is one of the reasons why he landed with Kitchens for Good.
Currently Howard is a public speaker, business strategist, C-level mentor, and management coach. He works with hospitality companies in California and throughout the United States.
Howard is strongly aligned with the values and heartbeat of Kitchens for Good. He appreciates KFG’s values that are centered around equity and growth mindset. The apprentice-centered programs are dedicated to helping people facing barriers to employment become work ready, be placed in quality jobs. The knife skills and life skills Kitchens for Good provides allow these individuals to step forward in their lives.
Julianne is a nonprofit executive with more than 30 years of experience. Her diverse career has spanned a variety of industries–consumer packaged goods, technology, childcare, museums and journalism—and an array of functions—finance, investments, strategy, mergers & acquisitions, customer service and tech support, marketing, and operations. Currently she serves as chief operating officer for Voice of San Diego, a nonprofit local investigative news organization. She has also served as the CEO of The New Children’s Museum and the COO at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and the San Diego Museum of Art. In addition to her service on the board of Kitchens for Good, Julianne serves on the advisory board for ICA San Diego. She loves exploring new places, trying all kinds of food, cooking for friends and family, visiting museums, surfing, hiking, dancing, reading, partaking in all kinds of cultural activities, and telling silly jokes.
Julianne is honored to serve on the board for Kitchens for Good. She joined the board because of her passion for helping others gain access to opportunities that enable them to transform their lives. Julianne also believe deeply in the power of social enterprise to promote and support social change. It is thrilling to watch our graduates build meaningful and rewarding careers and to support their journeys.