Detroit Free Press (MI)
November 4, 2007
WOMEN AT WORK GOOD COOK
CHEF NOURISHES THE NEEDY AT GOURMET SOUP KITCHEN
Author: PATRICIA MONTEMURRI; Free Press staff writer
Alison Costello; Capuchin Soup Kitchen
On Nov. 4, Capuchin Soup Kitchen Executive Chef Alison Costello, right, will find out if she wins the Women Who Inspire community service award from the national Women Chefs & Restaurateurs. Even if she doesn't win the title, to be announced at a Rhode Island ceremony, Alison considers her work at the soup kitchen on Meldrum Street its own reward.
GOOD FOOD IN A LOVING HOME: Alison, 44, grew up Polish Catholic on Detroit's west side. "I grew up in a foodie family," Alison says. Her mother did lots of entertaining. Her parents thought nothing of taking the kids with them to some of Detroit's premier restaurants in the 1960s-'70s, like Jim's Garage and Pontchartrain Wine Cellars.
A CALLING: When she was a kid, Alison thought about becoming a nun. At the University of Michigan, she studied fine arts and thought of becoming an artist or a food stylist. She then studied in New York City to become a chef.
THINGS STARTED COOKING: She's been a private chef, and graced the kitchens of Detroit's former Money Tree restaurant, the old Omni Hotel, Pronto in Royal Oak, and Whole Foods Market.
NEW RECIPE FOR SUCCESS: A headhunter let her know about the soup kitchen job. It dovetailed with her Catholic faith and a calling to serve, and a desire to "run a good business and ministry." She says, "We have to be good stewards of resources." The Capuchin kitchen promotes sustainability. The kitchen works with wholesalers and coops to purchase seasonal and organic foods. It accepts food donations and uses produce from Capuchin-farmed gardens.
WHO SHE SERVES: She has seen some diners every workday of the six years she's had the job. The kitchen feeds all comers: people who are destitute and have mental illness, addicts, prostitutes and families down on their luck.
"It doesn't matter how someone got there," Alison says of those served by the range of Capuchin ministries, "but rather what is the most charitable thing for a person at that time."
WHY SHE SERVES: "I feel I have an obligation to share talents, knowledge and gifts I've been given," Alison says. "Every person deserves the dignity of eating well."
WHAT FEEDS HER: "We all get something from being here. Every day pulling out of the driveway to work, I realize how very fortunate and honored I am to work here."
WHAT'S FOR LUNCH: On the menu earlier this month: donated ravioli and homemade chicken cacciatore, with peppers grown from the Capuchin's Earth Works Garden. A donation of pine nuts and almond paste went into a recipe for almond-pignoli cookies, an Italian treat. For holiday gift baskets for volunteers, she has a to-do list that includes steamed cranberry ginger pudding.
VOLUNTEERS ARE KEY: "Volunteers are our labor pool," Alison says. She supervises five paid kitchen staffers. There are six volunteers for breakfast and six for lunch.
WHO COOKS AT HOME: Her husband, Martin Costello, often cooks for Alison and their two kids, Stella, 11, and Seamus, 8, in their Wyandotte home. She likes his 10-ounce beef filet, seared to perfection and topped by a beurre blanc sauce.
Patricia is a Twist writer. You can talk to her at 313.223.4538 or email@example.com.
ILLUSTRATION: Photo HUGH GRANNUM Detroit Free Press
Russ Kreinbring, left, of Center Line, chef assistant / manager Steven La Franiere of Detroit and Alison Costello put meat in the freezer at the soup kitchen. To learn about volunteering at the soup kitchen, call 313.822.8606, ext. 10 or go to www.cskdetroit.org.
CAPTIONWRITER: Alison Costello, 44, of Wyandotte and Dave Henderson, 53, of Trenton create puff pastries Oct. 15 at the Capuchin Soup Kitchen in Detroit.
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Record Number: dfp0000499805