Teresa is one of the most enthusiastic Chef Advocate Trainees we have had the pleasure of getting to know during Empower L.A. Class Four. She has been a beacon of positive energy in the kitchen and classroom, never hesitating to ask a question, state her opinion, or lend a helping hand to anyone in need of assistance.
This week, I had the opportunity to sit down with Teresa and talk to her a little bit about herself and her experience so far here at L.A. Kitchen.
Q: What’s your favorite food to eat or cook?
A: “My grandmother’s peach cobbler. Because she puts a lot of love into it…that was my favorite. Every time I felt bad, she would make a peach cobbler for me when I was younger. And she grew peaches also, so they were very fresh. She would make the crust, and her little hands would just be working. So I would say…it would be her peach cobbler.”
Q: How did you come to be involved with L.A. Kitchen?
A: “Well…um…it makes me get teary-eyed, but…I was homeless. I would never think I would be homeless, I really didn’t. Didn’t think about that at all…The schoolboard had started laying people off, and I was one of them. I never thought about that. And then everything, my home and everything that I felt comfortable in was gone. And my son had went online and found the Downtown Women’s Center for me…And the cook there, Mr. Carlos at the Downtown Women’s Center, he gave me the opportunity to cook. Because I said, when I feel sad, I like to cook…but then that made me not feel sad anymore. And my love for cooking just became more enhanced with him…And from there, Mr. Carlos said, ‘You’re ready for this program.’ I said, ‘What program?’ He said, ‘The L.A. Kitchen.’ I said, ‘The L.A. Who?’ He said, ‘The L.A. Kitchen.’ I said, ‘Okay, then. Put me down.’ And next thing I know, one thing led to another, and here I am.”
Q: What were some of your expectations coming into the program? How have these expectations changed?
A: “My expectations have not changed because it was everything that I thought it would be. Just the L.A. Kitchen. This is L.A. Kitchen. A kitchen to cook in. And it just raised my expectations even more so because I was like, wow, I get a chance to cook on a larger scale! And everyone here…starting from the president to the staff to the supporting staff, the volunteers…I know they’re good people because they’re investing in a good project here. It makes you feel…you come here, you don’t feel worthless anymore. Everybody here loves you…we’re a family. We do have our ins and outs with each other, but…at the end of the day, we’re still family. It made me feel, at the age that I am, at 57 years old, that I still have a lot of life in me, a lot of years.”
Q: What has been your favorite moment so far?
A: “Meeting everyone here and taking the pictures and seeing everyone that are with us and for us 100 percent…that’s a natural high right there. That is a natural high.”
Q: What do you hope to accomplish for yourself in the weeks to come?
A: “To know that…life doesn’t stop because you’re homeless. I’ve learned that. Life doesn’t stop because you’re homeless.”
Q: Would you say that’s one of the biggest things you’ve learned?
A: “That’s the biggest thing right there. That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned….just because you’re homeless, life doesn’t stop. Everything still keeps revolving around you. And you have to want to be part of this. You have to want to be part of this circle. Because this circle is getting larger and larger and larger, that’s what I have learned.”
Q: Where do you hope to be in five years?
A: “In five years? I hope to be working at a very good establishment, and…I would have resituated my life. And just be more involved with my family. I don’t want to own a business, but I want to be part of a business. I want to be one of those team players that you can really depend on. This is where I see myself in five years, at a good working establishment. And to meet and connect with the community even more so than the way I am now…I am very excited! Can I get a high five?”