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"In Chef's Hands" Brings Culinary Experiences to Those In Need

By Anthony Todd in Food on May 31, 2011 4:00PM

Aglibot and Crane rolling sushi at Sunda.
Scott Crane was under hospice care for muscular dystrophy when he met Chef Rodelio Aglibot. Crane had difficulty eating, and his condition was quite challenging, but he was a dedicated lover of food and a blogger. He asked for a unique form of help, what he calls "Food Therapy," and after a day in the kitchen with Chef Aglibot rolling sushi and swapping stories, his condition began to improve. The experience led him and Aglibot to collaborate on the creation of "In Chef's Hands," a new charitable organization that aims to bring one-on-one culinary experiences to individuals with special needs.

Organizer Jeremy Dubin tells the backstory - "Back in September of 2010, Scott messaged me on Facebook and looking for someone to talk to. Scott told me about his food blog, and his passion for food - and I thought, what can I do to help him? Let me call some chefs." The chef he called, Aglibot, organized a meeting between Crane, his family and Dubin at Sunda, and, as Dubin tells it, "at that moment, we knew we had a charity." The family spent 3 hours talking, eating, cooking and crying along with the chefs, and it inspired Dubin, Aglibot and co-founder Todd Stein (of The Florentine and Cibo Matto) to create their organization.

Why would a chef want to work with such a challenging customer? Aglibot tells it best. "The moment I met the Crane family and spent time with them, I personally got back something that I hadn't had in a while: a feeling of purpose. When I'm sitting with this person who would give anything to be a chef - it took away all the other pressures I have as a chef, and brought me back to why I do this." His words have inspired others - an all-star team including Patricio Sandoval (Mercadito), Jared Van Camp (Old Town Social), John Manion and many others have signed on to host culinary experiences.

The organization is still forming and working out the details of finances, recruitment and facilities. Dubin dreams that someday, they might own their own kitchen facility, specially-adapted to individuals with special needs. For now, they ask chefs to commit to a one-on-one experience four times a year, and hope to build connections between chefs and food lovers in need. Aglibot told us that, for him, it was like "career rehab" - an opportunity to find "the true chef in ourselves," and he hopes that the notable culinary figures involved will help recruit others.

Anyone with special needs or a disability who loves food will be invited to participate. "They've gotta be a foodie - not just someone who wants free food!" says Dubin.
"Any age, any disability or condition. Every program is going to be custom-made to the individual. For Scott, we cooked in the dining room on a hot plate. We could take someone to the market, rather than into the kitchen." The organization will launch in June, with a website going live in the middle of the month and a fundraiser at Old Town Social on June 14th, from 6-8 PM. Right now, all the work, money and time for this organization are coming from volunteers - if you want to help out, come to the fundraiser! For just $25, guests get drinks, passed appetizers and access to charcuterie stations. Not only is this a great deal (especially if you love Old Town Social) but you can be assured that you are sharing your love for food with others who need help.

Why is working with food important? "The best times are eating and talking - they bring smiles to peoples' faces," says Dubin. "Think about someone with special needs - they get to hang out with a renowned chef. For that 2-3 hours, whatever pain or suffering they are in will go away. That's what we want to provide."