Captured in the rhythm and warmth of the YESS kitchen is the heart and soul of a wholly talented and imaginative culinary team focused on the delivery of daily healthy meals for young people seeking respite and comfort.
Moments of gentle conversation and spontaneous laughter mingle together with the many sounds and nuances of this hub of activity: the rhythmic whisk and crunch of vegetables being peeled and chopped; the tap-tap-tap of aromatic herbs being minced; bubbling pots; the sizzle and bounce of oil on the grill; the clinking of cutlery and gentle clatter of dishes.
A beautiful medley of old, new, and shared experiences, mingle together to craft a beautifully delicious legacy of food, nutriment, and welcome.
MEET THE KITCHEN TEAM
“Legacy is defined as ‘something that is left or handed down by a predecessor.’ And so, what knowledge has been passed on to me that I am now bringing to YESS? Hello, I’m Ryan Little and I have been with YESS since January 2021. This past March, I assumed the role of Kitchen Team Supervisor. This is the story of my legacy and how I’ve applied it during my time at YESS.”
As a child, I was gifted with a love for cooking from my dad. He was always willing to try something new and recreate the meals that he had seen on one of his cooking shows. He loved sharing with others what he thought was good. I can remember big family meals that he had cooked for everyone, and it brought us together regularly. These values were ingrained in me from early on. When I started to help him, he would encourage me to “play with flavours” and “try everything at least once”. You never know that you do or do not like something unless you try it. It is a standard that I hold many people to, even to this day. Growing up in a rural Manitoba community allowed me to also learn a wide range of cultural foods from our neighbours. We would have perogy and cabbage roll making parties; we would share the Bannock that we made with others; and our community potlucks were another staple that grew my passion for food and cooking.
That is where it all started for me. Then, as a teen, I took a job in the kitchen at our local small-town diner and that passion continued. In my early 20’s, I went to culinary school and further refined my skills, focusing on flavours and playing with new and existing cuisines. Once I had finished there, I worked in steak houses, catering, hotels, Mexican, southern, east coast, fine dining… You name it. I have done it. All of this expanded my knowledge and continuously kept me passionate about my job. With the pandemic, I found myself – along with countless others – looking for a job. Then, YESS came along.
YESS has been a great learning experience for me. I have gotten to share my knowledge of food with the youth. I’ve even gotten to experiment with foods and flavours that I have not had the opportunity to work with before. In the kitchen, the food pantry is donation based, and we plan our menus according to what donations we have. We do purchase small amounts of food to supplement what we need to finesse the meals. We are open to all feedback, and regularly get feedback from the youth in attendance. There are times the youth do not love the food we offer, and that is okay. For me, the takeaway is that they tried it! We have also been able to do special requests for birthdays and other celebrations, and that allows us to get to play with food that we would not otherwise cook.
The legacy I bring to YESS is my knowledge of the different styles of cooking that I have done; the home recipes that my dad taught me; and the dishes taught to me by neighbours. I want to share all of that, and I want the youth to get to enjoy the foods I love. I want them to talk about the meals that we make, and for them to give us their opinions. Their opinions are very important to me and help me to continuously grow as a chef.
When the youth or I move on from YESS, I want my legacy to simply be that I shared what I loved. My hope is that the youth loved it as well and want to share it with others.
Greetings! I’m George Richter and I have been a YESS Kitchen Team Member since September of 2021. I feel that my defining legacy will be found in relationship building. I recall many favourite memories of food experiences that I have woven into meal preparation and cooking, so that it becomes one full experience for the youth.
Just recently, I had a steak dinner with my friends to celebrate a success with his work. There were laughs, smiles and great times. There are also those times where food is associated with bad memories. Memories of making ends meet, struggling with isolation, fearful of change or new experiences.
I think that our job as cooks is to create a positive space where the youth can be themselves and be able to get the essentials that they need to thrive as human beings.
Some foods may be triggering to youth or may be off limits with religious or dietary restrictions. We must face those challenges and be prepared for all kinds of curveballs we might face.
A personal story, linked to food, was when I first came to Edmonton. With no social circle and feeling isolated, I got a job at a Mexican restaurant. I made some great friends and learned how to make great tacos, quesadillas, and enchiladas. All those became the foods that brought me comfort.
From that job, I started having a social circle and started thriving more as an individual. I associate the process of my discovery of Mexican cuisine a lot with where my passion began, and I wish that to be my legacy to the youth. It could well be that they experience something similar – an unexpected friendship and connection when in a dark or unfamiliar time – and are able to turn that into the start of something positive.
Outside of food, I foster a culture of collaboration, positivity, and fun – which cannot be said for many places in hospitality. I find that the team we have here supports each other well and there is a comradery that I have not seen before joining YESS. It is my wish that this culture continues even after any of the kitchen team moves on and that we continue to strive for creating an inclusive space where we encourage everyone to do their best every day.
Hello, I am Damodar Manikyala, known as Reddy by everyone. I have been at YESS for the last three and a half years as a kitchen team member. Before joining YESS, I worked with many hotels, and restaurants, in addition to 10 years on cruise ships. Altogether, I have almost 20 years of cooking experience ranging from fine dining to batch style cooking.
My passion is cooking. I enjoy cooking food for others and playing with flavours, while at the same time, making nutritious food to keep us healthy. I believe in eating healthy food rather than spending money on medicine when we get sick.
Legacy for me is taking what I have learned through my experiences and sharing them with my colleagues. Teaching them the simple and easy methods of cooking that save time and energy while at the same time being delicious to eat.
Though we never get to meet youth directly, our prepared meals will make them talk about our food and the passion that we show towards the food to keep everyone healthy. That is the legacy I want to leave for them.