Homegirl Café Community Dinner: Serving up second chances and five-star Latin fusion cuisine
// By Jacqueline Brennan
Highly rated on Zagat, with hundreds of rave reviews on Yelp, and serving delicious Latin fusion dishes – while teaching culinary skills to young women who are former gang members. You think that’s a mouthful? Just wait until you taste the scrumptious made-from-scratch, Latin-inspired cuisine you’ll enjoy during the Upswell Community Dinner at Homegirl Café!
As you break bread and make new connections, you’ll also gain helpful insights into how people in varying areas of the social good spectrum collaborated to address community challenges with approaches that satisfy the tummy and the soul.
Homegirl Café is among the social enterprises that comprise Homeboy Industries, founded by Father Greg in 2001. Like Homeboy Electronics Recycling, one of the stops on the LA Inside & Out tours, Homegirl Café provides hope, training, and support to gang-involved youth and previously incarcerated men and women. Located in L.A.’s Chinatown, the nonprofit focuses on girls and young women, teaching them skills “from the front to the back of the house,” according to Arlin Crane, Vice President of Social Enterprise at Homeboy Industries.
The farm-to-table restaurant makes fresh bread daily, and has a seasonal, produced based menu “featuring Latino flavors with a healthy, contemporary twist…” It also runs a catering service. Proceeds support the intervention and training services that Homegirl Café provides.
According to Arlin, “You can’t teach anyone by opening a can.” Their 18-month culinary training model starts with maintenance and moves on to kitchen prep and cooking. And because training graduates manage Homegirl Café, the nonprofit keeps an eye out for trainees with management potential.
Homegirl Café also helps trainees with other steps needed to re-enter society successfully, including getting their drivers’ license and GED, and record expungement.
“We focus on healing first, helping to break a population demoralized by stigma to be vulnerable and open to what can be. We want people at the community dinner who don’t know what being in a gang is like to experience someone’s journey, and to hear trainees’ stories about discovering that ‘gang life may have been a part of me, but it’s not going to define me.’”
“We are polishing diamonds and rubbing off the rough edges to help them find confidence to go in the right direction,” Arlin explains. “You can feel transformation and pride in the food.” For sure, the special on Homegirl Café’s menu is a perfect pairing: young women hungry for a better life, and an innovative dining spot serving second chances.
Upswell’s Community Dinners offer changemakers a chance to get out of the hotel, sit down over a meal with first-time acquaintances, leave with brand-new friends, and experience firsthand how bonding over food and mission might lead to an innovative solution.
To sign up for this Community Dinner, check the box beside Homegirl Café when you register for Upswell.