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The L.A. Kitchen Story is Y(OUR) Story

on December 10 | in Staff Updates | by | with No Comments

As the world reflects on the recent death of Nelson Mandela, I am reminded of the summer of 2002 when I spent 3 months independently living in South Africa while finagling college credit to study HIV/AIDS. The remaining stench of apartheid clearly impacted the racial divides and myths surrounding the disease and its treatment. I visited Mandela’s prison cell, soaked up the sun on a Durban beach, spent time with children in AIDS orphanages, and heard the stories of people in townships across the country. Never before had I witnessed such poverty while simultaneously experiencing such generosity. My overwhelmingly heavy, idealistic heart returned to Southern California, but I never, ever shook the sense of responsibility I gained that summer due to what I saw, tasted, touched, smelled and heard; it was a complete assault on my senses. I had become part of their story, them mine, and I vowed to do whatever I could to help share it respectfully and boldly.

In the years since, I’ve journeyed to discover the most impactful ways to tell this and other stories I’ve had the privilege of coming across. I’ve spent the last decade working for and with some of the most powerful entertainment companies and independent filmmakers in the world, specifically in the ‘do-gooder’ departments that often maintain the conscious pulse of such esteemed machines. I had comfortably settled on working with influencers and storytellers to create awareness, responsibility, empathy and then ACTION in the hearts and minds of its viewers.

Like many of my restless peers who climbed fast and high in Hollywood, I found myself constantly wondering what was next. There was a divide between what I was good at, and what caused me to feel I was doing something that MATTERED. One of my favorite quotes reminds us that (if we have the luxury to dream), ‘Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.’

I met Robert Egger on a trip to DC a few years ago. He was the subject of a documentary I was creating a social engagement and cause marketing campaign for. My colleagues and I were astonishingly inspired, and I knew I had to be part of what he was building. I urged him to bring his D.C. Central Kitchen model to Los Angeles, and let him know I’d help him tell the story. For over a year I reminded Robert (not so subtly) that I was still alive and interested, and when I received a call from him the fall of 2012 confirming his move to LA, I was ELATED, and in slight disbelief.

When I consider and share the L.A. Kitchen story, whether at a conference table, in a classroom, or on screen as I had the joy of doing in this contrast video, I think and speak in terms of narrative. Los Angeles is a story-driven town, with story-driven individuals and communities, and I’m not just speaking of Hollywood glam. The story of Los Angeles is the local farmer, the 1st generation student, it’s the teacher, grandfather, small business owner, the foster child, the nurse, the rabbi, the surfer and filmmaker. The beauty, complexity and struggle of each of these individuals weaves us all together, and if storytellers do their jobs right, we adopt these stories as our own.

The L.A. Kitchen is a place where story turns tangibly into awareness, responsibility, empathy, and ACTION; a place where we will be surprised by our own discovery of self and other. The story is just beginning, and we need your help in shaping and sharing it. In 2014 we will open our doors. Please get to know our story, tell us yours, and join us in adding new depths of hope, courage and inclusiveness within and outside the kitchen and Los Angeles.

-Kristen Irving, Vice President of Development and Communications
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