Dennis dropped out of the corporate world for several years to sail in the Caribbean. Ultimately, and for our good fortune, he chose to move back to the States where he studied and worked as a social worker for several agencies in Cincinnati, OH. Soon, the Culinary Arts were calling and Dennis earned a degree in Foodservice Management.
It was around 2001 when the Cincinnati Freestore/Foodbank was looking for the impossible … they were in the start-up phase of a community kitchen program that would teach individuals who were previously unable to secure gainful employment for many reasons and they needed to find an Executive Director with a very special combination of skills. The Director they sought to hire would need a combination of skills that are rarely found in one person … two people maybe, but not one. They were looking for someone who would be able to understand and work with students who had encountered difficult backgrounds and at the same time successfully manage a fast moving, big production kitchen as an Executive Chef and Teacher. No one could have thought that someone like Dennis would first ….even exist and second: build the original Cincinnati Cooks! Program from the 10-week training program to the program it is today.
Dennis and his team helped over 1000 students graduate from the Cooks! program and move on to be self-sufficient citizens, built and introduced a Catering Program to help employ grads, bring awareness to the Community as to what the Freestore can do and ultimately bring revenue into the FS/FB. “A Second Course” was built for Cooks! graduates and introduced advanced skills so that they could qualify for better positions.
After 11 years as the Executive Chef for Cincinnati Cooks! Dennis retired in 2012 and served as President of the Enright Ridge Eco Village in Cincinnati is “An intentional community leading urban revitalization and sustainability “and serves on the board of several community organizations, including Dinner With Our Friends.
As a final note from me (Barbie.)… I was talking to one of my most trusted mentors, Bill Eaton one of the principals of Cini-Little and the Cornell Hotel School (who designed the FSFB’s new kitchen just because we asked), when I started thinking about how to approach planning Dinner With Our Friends and Bill had one piece of advice…
He said, “Get Dennis to work on this. It’s the only way you know it will make sense. We love it, but you need Dennis.”
I couldn’t agree more.