Columbus Chefs and Nonprofit Team Up to Battle Human Trafficking

 In Food, Interviews

Catering firm Freedom a la Cart works to help survivors of human trafficking in the Columbus, Ohio, area by providing them with paid workforce training and support services. Once a year, the company also partners with some of the city’s best chefs to create Eat Up! Columbus, a culinary experience that helps raise awareness of the scourge of human trafficking and funds to combat it.

This year’s Eat Up! was held March 9. Two of the participating chefs—executive chef Jonathan Olson (pictured in the featured image) and chef de cuisine Courtney Nielson of The Keep Kitchen & Liquor Bar, a modern brasserie with a speakeasy bar—checked in with ALIVE to reflect on the event.

ALIVE: How did you two become part of Eat Up! Columbus?

Olson: Jack Moore, the chef of Watershed Kitchen & Bar here in Columbus, ran the kitchen this year. He reached out to six chefs he knew here and some strong female leads in the industry. We each took one course. Courtney really took the lead on our dish. Every restaurant put its own style into each course. For me, it was really an honor to be asked by Jack. I knew of [Freedom a la Cart] before, but after reading more about the organization, who they are and what they’ve accomplished, to be able to give back and use our restaurant and what we love and are passionate about really means a lot.

ALIVE: So, how did the event go?

Olson: I think we raised just shy of $40,000 for Freedom a la Cart and their mission to aid victims of human trafficking. There was an auction before the fourth and fifth courses, so I was able to go out in the dining room and talk to some guests—and everyone was extremely impressed and extremely happy.

Nielson: We had a lot of fun. It was great to be with other chefs in the community and see how much money was raised for the event.

Columbus Chefs and Nonprofit Team Up to Battle Human Trafficking

ALIVE: What dish did you create for the dinner?

Nielson: It was sort of themed on a gyro. We did a pita-crusted lamb (pictured above). It was a lamb shoulder and neck braised, crusted with pita crumbs and then deep-fried and served with a lamb jus, pea puree, onions, sliced carrots and herbs on top. One thing we all really tried to do was use local purveyors. Our lamb was from a local person.

ALIVE: It’s great that there were so many female chefs working the event.

Nielson: It was great. [The restaurant industry is] a male-dominated world, so it’s hard as a female to get your voice out there. A few of the chefs brought along female line cooks and prep cooks who they let pretty much do the dish, which was amazing. They put their names on it. They got to go on a Saturday night, the biggest night of service, and be part of this event.

Freedom a la Cart provides personal mentors to survivors in its program, as well as support in expunging their criminal records. It’s currently fundraising to move the catering and box lunch business into its own kitchen (and perhaps eventually launch a sit-down eatery). To find out more, visit its website.

Images courtesy of Victoria Photos.

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