Chef Nate Lane serves up lovin' spoonfuls at People Serving People
March 25, 2008 - 09:04.
For those of us who step out of heated cars, hustle into cozy homes, and sit down to hot meals every evening, it’s hard to imagine the life of a mom with three kids under age five who shows up exhausted and homeless at People Serving People, hoping for a night of rest and sustenance for her family. That costs money—which many of us would give, if it were top of mind, but PSP is one of those places in the drive-by zone. That’s why the downtown Minneapolis nonprofit is hosting Chefs for Change, a series of dinners and cooking demonstrations that bring potential donors to PSP’s residential high-rise at 614 South Third Street.
“Most people have never been a guest in our facility,” says Jim Minor, PSP president and CEO. “We started out serving primarily indigent men, but we saw the needs of our community changing. We realized that taking care of families with young children is the best way for us to create change.” Indeed, PSP offers 99 separate rooms for families who need shelter and services. Early childhood education is a top priority: soon the organization will expand its education-oriented child care capacity from 20 children to 40.
“Something as simple as recognizing kids with a pat on the back or a ‘How was your day?’ is transformational for them because they’ve never had that,” Jim says. Family dynamics improve when parents get time to do all that is demanded of them, from applying for jobs to filling out medical insurance forms to finding affordable housing, says Jim.
At Chefs for Change on this Easter Monday, repast was provided by executive chef Nate Lane, owner of Thyme to Entertain. Nate’s company caters everything from backyard barbecues to the fanciest weddings in town, and keeps mucky-mucks happy with meals in their corporate jets. The man’s connected, not just with the “A list,” but also with his sense of gratitude. He gives. A lot. And he insists that therein lies his success.
Nate donated the food and his time tonight for People Serving People. I arrived thinking it was going to be a smattering of appetizers paired with nice wines, but he made us a full-on four course dinner, and it was delicious. On the menu: Organic Arugula Salad with roasted pears and goat cheese; Smoked Mussels with roasted tomatoes, chorizo and spinach; Grass-fed Beef Wellington with basil pesto, whipped potatoes and asparagus; and Artisan Cheese with Minnesota honeycomb and chutney. I’ll be waddling for days.
While we munched our mussels, Nate demonstrated how to prepare them:
Melt butter in a heavy pot, and add chopped garlic and cooked chorizo (or any spiced ground meat). Then add vegetable stock and either white or red wine (or add curry and coconut milk) and the tomatoes, which Nate flavored by “smoking” them with a sprig of fresh rosemary in a covered pan over low heat for 5 minutes. Dump in the mussels, cover, and simmer four to five minutes, until the shells open. Finally, toss in a few handfuls of fresh baby spinach and some basil or any herbs you like, and let them wilt before serving in bowls, with the broth.
Nate said the way to pick fresh mussels is to make sure they’re closed because that means they’re alive. You have to throw out the ones that are open, so don’t buy them. (Tap the open ones to see if they snap shut. If they do, they’re good.)
The meal was delightful, and my dinner companions even more so. Vineeta Sawkar looked fabulous even though she woke up at the crack of dawn to anchor KSTP-TV’s 5 Eyewitness News. She brought a friend from her St. Paul neighborhood who knows people I know from my last “real” job—the world gets ever smaller.
Brian Anderson, editor of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, and his wife Kari, an after-school program director for Wayzata schools, glow together; I’m inspired anew to find my perfect mate. And Kevyn Burger of FM 107.1—a lovelier, more forthright soul does not exist. I hope her children know how respectfully she represents them.
I learned that Kevyn and her kids have been working with People Serving People for years. Her daughter, a capable photographer, decided on her own to offer family portraits for PSP guests—most likely the only formal photo for which they’d ever sat. Then her son, like his sister a graduate of Arts High School at Perpich Center for Arts Education, took a photography class and was able to blow up the portraits and frame them. Some of the photos still decorate the PSP hallways, a testament to the “homeness” of the place.
Jim Minor would like more Twin Cities community members to visit PSP and to support its mission to serve homeless children and their families and to provide new opportunities for healthy, stable family life. You can donate here.
To be invited to the next Chefs for Change event, call events coordinator Amy Jenkins at 612-277-0221. This year’s lineup includes chefs from The Oceanaire, Porter & Frye, and other top restaurants. You can get on the mailing list for PSP’s annual benefit, too—it’s in November. Rumor has it, the new Ivy Hotel is hosting, thanks to PSP board member and major contributor Jeff Laux, who developed the Ivy. Count me in!