Great food, great service, great cause
Easter Seals builds larger kitchen; wants to expand catering program

By Katherine Michalets - Special to The Freeman

July 23, 2014

Easter Seals’ new commercial kitchen features wide aisles, allowing classes to observe techniques while training, as well as to give people in wheelchairs easy access to the stations.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - The shiny new commercial kitchen inside Easter Seals Southeast Wisconsin’s Northview Road location is a source of pride for those who helped create it and for the many who will benefit from its use as a training facility and revenue source.

Monday was the first day the kitchen was put into service as workers at Easter Seals catered lunch for the Waukesha Noon Rotary Club.

“I think of it as great food, then great service and for a great cause,” said Easter Seals CEO Bob Glowacki.

First and foremost, Glowacki said he wants the Easter Seals’ catering service to be known for its delicious food, then for the experience.

The nonprofit Easter Seals helps individuals with disabilities and special needs and their families live better lives by providing child development centers, physical rehabilitation and job training.

The kitchen provides hands-on learning in the food and hospitality industry. The trainees learn everything from food purchasing and meal preparation to service and food safety. Some of the program participants have found jobs at Rochester Deli, Bonefish Grill and McDonald’s.

T. J. King prepares herbs for a recipe in Easter Seals' new commercial kitchen Tuesday. The large kitchen will be used to teach job skills to program participants like King, as well as to prepare food for Easter Seals' catering operation.
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

The experience Patrick Cvetan has gained from working in the kitchen at Easter Seals helped him land a job at Culver’s, where he takes orders to tables and removes the garbage.

Cvetan said he really likes his boss and getting a paycheck. When asked what he does with the money he earns, he proudly said he saves it.

The hope is to double the amount of catering jobs Easter Seals gets to do each month, said Workforce Development Director Beth Lohmann. That would mean going from about five to 10 per month to 10 to 20.

Looking to rent out space as well

The kitchen and surrounding space have been set up not only to benefit those who receive services and training from Easter Seals, but with the public in mind. Next to the kitchen, which is about five times the size of the previous kitchen in downtown Waukesha, is a banquet room. In an expanded portion of the hallway is a chef’s demonstration area.

Susan Russell, vice president of community engagement, said a group could rent out the space and bring in a celebrity chef to do a demonstration. There will be TVs above the station displaying video shot by a camera on the chef’s hand. If the video is being shot for training purposes, it could be posted online.

“We want the community to use the facility and see what we do,” Russell said.

In separate rooms off of the kitchen, a space has been created for local food entrepreneurs to package products. Easter Seals plans to rent out the kitchen for these small businesses.

During a tour of the facility Tuesday afternoon, Commercial Catering Supervisor Larry Millard said he is “like a kid in a candy shop” at the new facility. He said they are still figuring out where everything is after the move.

In addition to restaurant-quality equipment, Easter Seals’ kitchen offers double-wide aisles to provide space for people in wheelchairs. Tables will also be lowered for easier access.

To raise money for the kitchen and culinary features, naming rights were offered for donations. The kitchen will be known as Nana’s Kitchen, a name selected by the lead donor, Ziemann Foundation.  There are still more naming opportunities available, Russell said, and fundraising continues.

The kitchen is generally in use from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, Lohmann said. Trainees also learn how to work in other places through the catering program, which often involves preparing food offsite, as well as providing customer service.

Millard is excited to share with the community what Easter Seals’ catering service can offer and to provide more opportunities for people to learn in the expanded space. To learn more about reserving Easter Seals’ catering service or to donate, call 262-547-6821.