By Michael McGraw
Soon, residents of several of Cleveland's shelters will regularly get to share in the culture of culinary excellence that lately has been helping to put our oft-maligned metropolis on the map of foodies nationwide. Thanks in large part to the efforts of area native Chef Matt Barnes, the buzz around Cleveland's food scene will no longer be enjoyed exclusively by locals with ample disposable income. Even more exciting and encouraging, Barnes is taking steps to ensure that some of the training and employment opportunities associated with our restaurant scene are available to as many people as possible.
Barnes grew up in Berea and trained at Pittsburgh's Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts. Returning to northeast Ohio to start a career, he was involved in Salmon Dave's in Rocky River and the Blue Pointe Grille on W.6th. He had such sustained success with the Saucy Bistro -- another Rocky River attraction he opened in 1998 -- that he was able to sell it in August in order to "spend more time with my family and take a break from the everyday grind of ownership and being the chef".
But if you'd think someone with so many ideas wouldn't stay "retired" for long, you're right! Barnes told me in our email exchange that he wasn't actively looking for restaurant work when he got a call from a friend who worked for Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries, which runs downtown Cleveland's 2100 Lakeside men's shelter, among other key social services. "She told me that they were looking for a chef to head up the central kitchen and to help teach people how to cook, and the whole idea of giving back, teaching people how to cook and doing what I like really sparked my interest."
Starting soon, the Central Kitchen Barnes will oversee, will provide meals to local shelters including 2100 Lakeside, MHS, and North Point, and they plan to add more. "Our goal is to provide good nutritious meals that are cost-effective." Barnes also plans to make the operation into a working culinary school that gives a "hand up" to locals in need of a trade. "Men or women are welcome to apply to be part of the 6-month training program that will teach them a lot of what I learned in culinary school. Our goal here is to turn out not just someone that can flip a burger, but a high quality line cook that any of the top restaurants in Cleveland would be glad to hire. "
Some local area residents experiencing homelessness got a taste of what's to come with all of this when Barnes catered the Hand Up Gala at the Bishop Cosgrove Center on Dec 6. We're lucky to have Chef Matt Barnes in Cleveland.
Copyright Cleveland Street Chronicle Cleveland ,Ohio February 2013 NEOCH