HUDSON COUNTY, NJ - Putting their culinary skills to the test, chefs at the Hudson County Community College Culinary Arts Institute (CAI) have prepared over 900 hot meals for clients of Let’s Celebrate, a Jersey City based soup kitchen in recent weeks, college officials announced.

Let’s Celebrate Food Pantry and Square Meal Community Kitchen is a nonprofit, community service organization that began feeding the homeless in Journal Square more than 30 years ago and has grown to include a network of soup kitchens and food pantries throughout Jersey City.  

The chefs are instructors at the college and since there have been no classes since COVID-19 shutdown, they have turned their mission to helping the needy, Monica Casey, Hudson County Community College Foundation’s Vice Chair told TAPinto. “The kitchens are not being used for class, so they are being used to provide meals,” she said counting herself as one of the volunteers.

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There is an assembly line of volunteers, each doing their part to assemble the food packages. These volunteers arrive as early as 5:30 a.m. to begin after three days of food prep.

Coordinated by Paul Dillon, Chef Gary Bensky, Chef Janine Nunez and Chef/Professor Anuchit Pukdeedamrongrit (aka “Chef Puk”), the meals have been of the gourmet variety and include Tuscan-style herb-roasted chicken,  braised leg of veal a la Normande (apple scented demi-glace sauce) served with saffron rice pilaf, and melange of corn, peas and lima beans O’Brien, and pork loin with rice beans, carrots, and plantains. 300 meals featuring chicken cacciatore as the centerpiece are to be delivered later this week.

CAI has been nationally recognized for its award-winning curriculum and is one of only two programs in the New York region to be accredited by the American Culinary Federation Accrediting Commission. It is also accredited by the American Culinary Federation Educational Foundation (ACFEF); a prestigious designation held by only a select number of schools in the U.S  CAI areas of study include everything from baking and beverage management to cost control, menu and facilities design, to wines and spirits. 

So far, most of the cost of the meals has been borne by the chef’s themselves. But the program needs additional support if it is to continue. “We hope to have enough funds raised for a few more weeks of meals,” Casey said.

Those interested in helping can contact Mirta Sanchez, Assistant to the Vice President for Planning and Development at msanchez@hccc.edu or (201) 360-4004 or can donate online by clicking here. HCCC is matching all donations.

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