Monday, June 1, 2009
A Chef's Gift to Transitional Youth
It is a warm, blue sky, sunshiny Thursday about 1 p.m., and Mauro Cettina is driving back from the Grocery Outlet in King City with 10 dozen eggs, a bunch of carrots and celery and other items for the potato salad he will be preparing for tonight’s Transitional Youth meal. He plans on cooking for about 100 youth, but the numbers vary each time.
“Tony Slyter, the Grocery Outlet owner, donated these items,” Mauro shares.
Mauro decided to make potato salad for dinner for the kids because potatoes are what he had the most of.
“I was walking around downstairs in the church and I saw the 100 pounds of potatoes that Tony had donated a while back,” Mauro explains. “I thought I’d make potato salad and serve it with hot dogs. It’s a nice picnic kind of summery food for the day.”
“I try to make homemade stuff. This isn’t Sisco potato salad. It has pickles, celery, eggs,” Mauro, the church’s facilities manager, a former professional chef, explains. “I am always getting the word out to every ministry in the church that I need food for Transitional Youth nights. Like if we have a ton of ham left over from an event, I will freeze it and use if for another event, but you cannot keep ham that long, and I will ask the ministry if I can use it for Transitional Youth. It is a great way to not waste food. I can pretty much make something nice out of anything.”
Recently, after the high school ministry’s All-Church Old-Fashioned Spaghetti Feed for Missions that I organized, Mauro used the left over sauce that he had made for that event for a Transitional Youth meal night.
“Tony had donated stew meat and I braised it with onions, chicken broth, garlic and simmered it for a while, then added it to the spaghetti sauce and put it over pasta. The kids just loved it.”
Mauro has been using his culinary gift on Mondays and Thursdays for Transitional Youth for about six months. Sometimes he is just there while another group has prepared the meal.
He loves getting to know the youth.
“You focus on the kids that you have a little bit of rapport with. The thing that I have to remember is it is not about me. Sometimes I don’t get any response, not even a thank you, but that’s okay. You’re not doing it for that. It is easy to compare with our kids, how we’ve taught them to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ for everything. But at Transitional Youth, sometimes it’s just, ‘Where’s the mayonnaise, where’s the mustard?’”
At 3:30 that Thursday, the potato salad is completed. A 100 to 110 pound potato salad.
“Linda Saxton and I cleaned them and pealed them yesterday, and today we sliced them and put together the salad. I have a lot of people helping me,” Mauro notes.
He has to be at the First Baptist Church in downtown Portland, where Transitional Youth now meets, by 4:30 to start the set up for the youth who will start arriving between 5:30 and 6 p.m.
“It’s neat knowing that the kids get a home-cooked meal. And just seeing the volunteers who feel called to serve the kids. The humility behind that. No one says thank you. We don’t expect it. I love to see the community of servants gathered.”