From Survival to Empowerment: Meet Community Kitchen’s Sous Chef, Formerly Homeless and Hungry

There was a time when Prince Appleberry didn’t know where his next meal would come from. Homeless and hungry, the Chattanooga native often found himself in the dining room of the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, along with many people who benefit from the meals served there each week.

Now, as a sous chef at the Community Kitchen, he feeds the hundreds who are deprived of those basic necessities, the things that many of us take for granted, like a hot meal.

Appleberry came to the Community Kitchen nine years ago when a friend told her about the Community Kitchen’s Victory in Progress, a program at its Homeless Health Care Center, an outpatient alcohol and drug abuse program.

“Being a part of that is how I got my first job at the Community Kitchen,” says Appleberry. “I started in dishwasher maintenance and learned how to cook through staff training. Then I was promoted to cook, then head chef, and now I’m the sous chef.”

Working to feed the homeless puts him in a position to give back, he says.

“Just helping others know what it’s like to have been homeless and being able to give back means a lot to me,” she adds.

Vanessa Blevins, Community Kitchen’s chief financial officer, says Appleberry is a great asset to the organization’s foodservice division.

“His life experiences have given him a level of compassion for others that can’t be taught, and it’s clear he genuinely cares about the people he serves every day,” she says. “Prince also relates well to the wide range of volunteers who come into the kitchen to serve meals. His willingness to teach others and his dedication to changing lives through small acts of kindness is beautiful to watch as an administrator. I don’t have to worry about food service because we have an amazing team. They work hard to provide healthy and nutritious meals to those who seek refuge in the Community Kitchen.”

The Chattanooga Community Kitchen serves three meals a day, seven days a week, including holidays. It began as just a food program in 1982 in partnership with area churches and has expanded to offer housing, health care and other support services to the homeless, hungry and vulnerable in the city.

“It’s hard to meet your basic needs when you and your family are hungry,” says Blevins. “Your mind cannot focus on anything other than survival. Our goal in providing three meals a day is to restore dignity to our neighbors because we believe that no one deserves to starve and everyone deserves the opportunity to change their circumstances. To be able to depend of a hot meal allows participants to focus on housing, employment, and other crucial steps on the journey from survival mode to empowerment.”

Your favorite foods? Chicken with mixed vegetables and rice with sauce; pork chops with rice and sauce; turkey salad; and Appleberry’s favorite: spaghetti with meat sauce.

Spaghetti Sauce with Ground Beef

1 pound ground beef

1 medium onion, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 small green bell pepper, diced

1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes

1 can (16 ounces) tomato sauce

1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons dried basil

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

cooked pasta

Combine ground beef, onion, garlic, and green pepper in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook and stir until meat is browned and vegetables are tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain fat.

Add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato paste. Season with oregano, basil, salt and pepper. Cook the sauce over low heat for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Serve over pasta.

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