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From restaurants to charity: More changed lives

Allison Sosna with students at Washington Jesuit Academy. (Fresh Start Catering)

She’s cooked for picky customers at the renowned Inn at Little Washington, but that’s nothing compared to getting 88 boys to eat Brussels sprouts. Which is why Allison Sosna says the proudest moment of her chef career came last year when she watched all the students at Washington Jesuit Academy, a Washington charter school for low-income boys, eat up every scrap of the roasted sprouts tossed in Dijon vinaigrette that she had made for them.

“It was so awesome. It was better than feeding people at the Inn,” says Sosna, the 24-year-old executive chef of Fresh Start Catering, a branch of the nonprofit DC Central Kitchen, which provides the meals for the academy.

Like Demetrios Recachinas, the professional-chef-turned-charity-food-director at Martha’s Table in the District, Sosna also gave up a burgeoning restaurant career for a job in the nonprofit sector.

“I was looking for a way to make food more meaningful in people’s lives,” she says. A graduate of both American University and L’Academie de Cuisine, Sosna had been working at such area restaurants as Chef Geoff’s, Lia’s and Hook. It was Hook's then-chef Barton Seaver who recommended her to DC Central Kitchen. The charity hired her last February as executive sous chef for its catering program. Two months later, she was promoted to executive chef.

The job, says Sosna, “has changed my life.”

Like Recachinas, Sosna is determined to bring more locally grown, seasonal and sustainable food to programs that feed the less fortunate. In the year since she was hired, she has used many of her restaurant contacts to bring in local fruits and vegetables and fresh fish to feed the students at Washington Jesuit Academy, as well as a day care center, a small tutoring center in southeast DC, and the food cart that the catering company runs near the International Spy Museum.

“About 40 to 50 percent of what we serve now is local and sustainable food, and I’m trying to expand that,” Sosna says.

At Washington Jesuit Academy, for example, she and her sous chefs have taken the meal program from mostly microwaved package food to almost entirely from-scratch cooking. “There’s a salad bar and we serve them a lot of roasted vegetables and fresh fish baked with herbs and olive oil,” Sosna says.

The best part: “The teachers say they can see a real change in the kids. They have more energy and they can concentrate better after lunch,” Sosna says. “That makes me so proud.”

-- Candy Sagon

By The Food Section  |  February 17, 2010; 2:30 PM ET
Categories:  Chefs  | Tags: Candy Sagon, charity, chefs  
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Great stuff!

Posted by: cbr1 | February 17, 2010 3:57 PM | Report abuse

thank goodness for people like Allison, trying to improve all of our lives.

Posted by: lechat17 | February 17, 2010 4:35 PM | Report abuse

Wonderful to see Allison featured! Keep up the great work.

--Sacha Cohen

Posted by: sachacohen | February 18, 2010 11:59 AM | Report abuse

Could she come to our house? We've a 4 year old refusenik (except for spinach/ricotta pie). ;-)


Posted by: FairlingtonBlade | February 18, 2010 3:38 PM | Report abuse

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