Cooking up some charity

The Century House Hotel and Restaurant is stepping up its efforts from just donating meals to regional food banks and are now enlisting the help its chefs to teach volunteers how to cook.

The Enjoy One Share One program, which is close to serving its 200,000th meal, grew from just underwriting a meal for the food bank in June of 2009 to sending chefs to the locations and providing the meal service once a month. Michael Niccoli, executive chef at the Century House, said it has developed relationships with many of the food banks in areas like Albany, Schenectady and Troy where some needs have been identified.

We wanted to also emphasize a lot of what the food bank has to offer that, though they might be a little bit nervous to take on, Niccoli said. "They tend to take on a lot of canned goods at these places because it's easy to store and easy to prepare."

Niccoli said the push is to use the abundance of fruits and vegetables the food banks have. At an event on Wednesday, July 20, the restaurant held what was the first of what Niccoli hopes will be many sessions where the cooking staff will be volunteering their time to help teach new ways to prepare food. At this event, Niccoli had a video camera focused in on a cooking set up to show those in attendance how to make a roux, which is a thickening sauce in soups.

He also was teaching them how to make a vegetable coulis, which is mixed with fruit with an emersion blender. Niccoli said the Century House is currently working with Sysco and other distributors the restaurant uses on getting more materials such as emersion blenders into the food banks.

The hope is to be doing these types of classes at the food bank's location instead of having representatives coming to the Century House. This would help in showing them how to make some of these dishes with the materials that particular food bank has onsite.

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