Madison-area Urban Ministry’s Just Bakery is an innovative and successful program that assists formerly incarcerated individuals who have barriers to employment by teaching them baking skills along with life skills and vocational training. On Saturday, Nov. 2, 6 p.m., the innovative program will be hosting an innovative fundraiser – the Food for Thought Culinary Competition – at the Madison College Truax Culinary Dining Room.
This inaugural fundraiser, modeled after Food Network’s “Chopped,” will pit Just Bakery students against Madison police officers and Madison Common Council members.
“There’s an appetizer, entree and dessert round. Each round will have a Just Bakery student, a police officer, and an alderperson,” Carmella Glenn, coordinator of the Just Bakery program, tells Madison365. “Everybody will get a black box of ingredients and will have 20 minutes to prepare a dish to be judged.”
The winner of each round will get a special gift that has been donated to MUM.
“They will be judged on plating, taste and using all of the ingredients in the box,” Glenn says.
The event will take place at Madison College’s Diane’s Delicious Diner, formerly Madison College Gourmet Dining Room, a simulated restaurant environment where students can develop and apply their culinary skills. Diane’s Delicious Diner provides students with an introduction to classical and ethnic cooking techniques common to full-service restaurants.
“I’m an alumnus of there. That’s where I got my culinary degree,” Glenn says. “[Madison College] Chef Paul Short has allowed us to host the event there. In their brand-new culinary room, each camera has a stove with a camera over it so we’ll be able to watch live streaming of it in there while they are working.”
Phillip Hurley, chef at Sardine, and Alex Lindenmeyer and Sinead McHugh from Short Stack Eatery will be the judges for the first annual Food for Thought Culinary Competition.
“It was really this idea that I wanted to have something that was interactive and fun fundraiser yet raise awareness with people,” Glenn says.
The original idea came to Glenn a few years ago back after the death of Tony Robinson at the hands of the Madison Police Department. “There was such unrest and mistrust with Madison Police at the time,” she remembers. “I know we need to have some systematic changes, but if I could get my students to spend a day hanging out with a Madison police officer and the officer get to hang with the student, they can learn more about each other and build more trust with each other. Last time, when we hosted the [Just Bakery] Unity Dinner, [as a result] I had a Seargent that still has coffee with one of my other staff, two of the officers joined our Mentoring Connections [program], one would go on to join our Circles of Support [program].
“It just changed how we start interacting with them,” she adds. “If I can save just one kid or one my students from having a bad interaction, it is worth it. I just believe that people can change their values and viewpoints by having experiences and that something good can come out of it.”
Beyond the Just Bakery students and Madison police officers, this event competition will mix in some Madison Common Council members, too.
“We have some new council members; a lot of them don’t know about what we do,” Glenn says. “It’s another space to come together and hang out for a few hours, have a competition, have fun and get to know each other.
“We know that having good food is a great conversation starter,” she adds.
Most importantly, the event will raise funds for MUM’s Just Bakery, a 16-week vocational and employment training program specifically designed to prepare men and women returning to the community after incarceration to work in commercial bakeries. Just Bakery teaches life and employment skills, food safety training and math. The program works with individuals who are experiencing significant barriers to employment (homelessness, criminal conviction history, lack of education, and/or a lack of work history or skills) and who have an interest in baking or culinary arts as a career pathway.
“This is an important fundraiser for us,” she says. “It’s $100 admission. I know that’s a little bit of a steep price. We can only fit 100 people in the room. I think people who come to event will leave very happy.”
There will be tons of food at the Food for Thought Culinary Competition. There will be Just Bakery cocktails for those that drink; a Just Bakery mocktail for those that don’t. There will also be a silent auction and raffle with some amazing prizes.
“Even if you can’t make it to the Food for Thought Culinary Competition, you can still bid on the silent auction items online,” Glenn says.
But you really should come to the event because …
“Because it’s going to be an awesome night of fun, food, interacting, networking, friendship for a really good cause!” Glenn says.
Just Bakery’s Food for Thought Culinary Competition will take place Saturday, Nov. 2, 6 p.m., at the Madison College Truax Culinary Dining Room. For more information, click here.