Fort York Food Bank. Annual Open House. 21 November 2018.

Volunteer Profile

Ken "The Cook" Lem
FYFB Volunteer

Ken Lem came to FYFB from Scadding Court Community Centre to help with a senior's cooking program. Ken, 73, ended up running FYFB's Community Kitchen and growing the program to include a staff of nine kitchen volunteers.

FYFB - Ken -The Cook- Lem"FYFB is like a family" says Ken and adds that he believes that leadership is key to running an operation like FYFB. He also has sings the praises of Mike Schoonheyt, FYFB's program coordinator and sole paid staff member.

Recently, Ken had a chance to join a number of agencies from across the city at a healthy cooking workshop put on by Daily Bread Food Bank, Toronto Health and George Brown College. He enjoyed working in George Brown's fancy commercial kitchens and upgrading his skills to include cooking with meat alternatives, like soy. Cooking at FYFB is a little different than it was back in his days as a restaurateur in Boston, but it's even more rewarding, according to Ken.

On Saturday, April 25, Ken and his team served 221 meals from the tiny kitchen, equipped with a home stove and two fridges. The George Brown experience has made Ken a little jealous of the school's amazing cooking facilities. His dream is for FYFB to have a commercial stovetop and oven.

"The home stoves just aren't meant for the number of meals we cook - (they) burn out too fast. We use the oven all the time because we don't have exhaust fans to move steam away - I can't just stir-fry everything on the stove top because it would always be steamy in the food bank. I would love a commercial oven because I could make pizza - get all the food groups in one dish - no more making meat, veg and starch separately," he added with a laugh.

The day starts early at FYFB's kitchen with Ken arriving at 5 a.m. to open up for the day and clean all the work areas. By 6 a.m. he's checking the stock and making a menu for the day. The week of April 19 was a bit challenging for the kitchen crew as only two turkeys were available for the entire week. Ken says the meat shortage is worsening as the recession deepens. On Saturday he took a donation of leftover baked potatoes and mushroom gravy and turned it into a casserole filled with peppers and broccoli. He would have loved to have had protein in the form of meat, milk or soy to add but he made do and the clients were pleased with his efforts.

On a typical day, the rest of the kitchen volunteers start arriving at 7 a.m. and Ken puts them to work preparing for the day. At 10 a.m. they have coffee and tea available for clients and at 11 a.m. the volunteers eat their lunch before hot food service for the clients begins at noon. By 2 p.m. everything is getting cleaned up and put away until it's time to get tomorrow's lunch underway.

Volunteer orientation sessions are held at 2:00pm on the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month. Click here to register online or drop by the Food Bank for more information.

photography courtesy of Claire Del Net

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