Community Spotlight: Bracken’s Kitchen

A great way to get involved with your community is to give a little time, attention, and if you can, monetary donations. For nearly 8 years, Bracken’s Kitchen has provided hot and nutritious meals to those in Orange County struggling with hunger.

behind the scenes food prep with Paper Mart and Bracken's Kitchen

Read on to learn a little more about Bracken’s Kitchen from Bill Bracken himself as well as more details on how you can get involved. 

About Bracken’s Kitchen

I believe every time we go on your website or see Betsy, your big, beautiful food truck, on the road, we fall in love with Bracken’s Kitchen a little more. For our readers who perhaps aren’t local or familiar with the mission of Bracken’s Kitchen, could you give us a little run down?

BK: Our official mission statement says, “Through food rescue, culinary training and our community feeding programs we are committed to rescuing, repurposing and restoring both food and lives.”

What that means in layman’s terms is that we get to go to work every day doing what we love to do, cooking tasty and nutritious meals and we get to do it for people who are really in need. We are able to do this through an amazing rescued food program that brings us high quality, perfectly good products that would otherwise go to waste. And while we are cooking all of these meals we get to train people in need and offer a path out of poverty.

Photos taken during a recent tour of the Bracken’s Kitchen facilities.

What would you say has been the most rewarding part of starting Bracken’s Kitchen?

BK: Wow, that is always an easy question to answer but also quite complex. After spending 25 years cooking for and feeding some of the most well known people in America, I never would have imagined the impact this work would have on me. 

Life changing, no soul changing is the only way to describe it. I have literally been changed from the inside out.

I went from feeding the top 2% of our country to feeding the bottom 10% and life has never been more complete for me. We all share the two most basic human needs, the need to breathe and the need to eat, the problem is that air is free and food is not.

It is those simple facts that give food so much power over a person’s life. I have learned firsthand that there is no better way to “intimately” get to know a person than sharing a meal with them. Food just breaks down all the barriers. As a result, I have met and helped some of the most wonderful and amazing human beings, people that I never would have met if not for Bracken’s Kitchen.

Given your extensive career in the industry, it would be remiss of me to ask, do you have a favorite recipe that you’d like to share with us?

BK: Lot’s of them. But since I have become famous for my Mac & Cheese it would only be fitting that I share that with you. It was a recipe that I created while at the Peninsula Beverly Hills, at the time the #1 rated hotel in America and it is something we still make today.

Macaroni And Cheese
Elbow Pasta with Crushed Truffles and Taleggio Sauce
Serves appx. 8 appetizers or 4 entrees
– 4 cups Elbow Macaroni (cooked and chilled)
– Taleggio Sauce
– 2 tsp. White Truffle Oil
– 1 tsp. Black Truffle Oil
– 2 tbsp Truffles (crushed)
– 1 tbsp Chives (chopped)
METHOD:
Heat the sauce in a medium size sauce pan over low heat. Add in the oil and truffles and season with salt and fresh ground white pepper. Add in the pre-cooked macaroni and stir well. Keep simmering until the pasta is hot and then serve at once garnished with chives.
If you so desire you can garnish with a parmesan tuile. To make this you simply spread some grate parmesan on a non stick sheet pan and bake it in a 400 degrees oven until lightly golden brown. While still warm you can bend it around to form various shapes.
For variations you can add a variety of things such as crispy sweetbreads, lobster and shrimp.
Taleggio Sauce
Yields – about 1 quart
– 2 tbsp Butter
– 1/4 Leeks
– 1/4 Celery Stalk
– 2 Shallots
– 2 Garlic Cloves
– 3 Button Mushrooms
– 1-1/2 cups White Wine (Chablis)
– 3 cups Cream
– 18 each White Peppercorns
– 3-4 Thyme Sprigs
– 1 each Bay Leaf
– 1 lb Talaggio Cheese
– 1/4 cup Grated Reggiano
In a sauce pan over medium heat, sweat the vegetables in the butter until nice and soft but with no color. Add in the white wine and bring to a simmer. Reduce until almost dry and then add in the cream. Bring to a simmer and add in the herbs and peppercorns and cook for about 20 minutes reducing lightly. Add in the cheese and remove from the heat. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and blend in a bar blender for a long time until nice and smooth. Strain through a chinoise and cool on ice.

Paper Mart & Bracken’s Kitchen

Want to get involved and give directly to Bracken’s Kitchen? Simply add on a donation amount to your Paper Mart purchase!

Bracken's Kitchen facilities with neatly stored food and food packaging

Bracken’s Kitchen Favorites

Wondering what to stock up on? We’ve got a couple of ideas! Here are a few of Bill Bracken’s food packaging essentials as well as some easy tips to keeping packed food fresh.

Food prep at Bracken's Kitchen

BK: As little air as possible is the most important tip when packing cooked food items and for that I love bags with an easy zip-top. They can be used in a variety of ways and when sealed properly, they can help to really extend the shelf life of food.

When it comes to getting creative, I always turn to Paper Mart for a variety of options, from Chinese to go boxes to PET-style deli containers. But whenever possible I always try to pick something that is biodegradable or recyclable.

Shop Bill Bracken’s Favorites

The Bracken’s Kitchen Programs

Bracken’s Kitchen reaches the community in a variety of different ways, from food and job training to food recovery. Take a peek at the programs your donations are going towards.

Paper Mart visits Bracken's Kitchen

Recovered Food

The Bracken’s Kitchen team works directly with local food suppliers, vendors, farmers, and restaurant operators to move excess product and transform it into healthy, high-quality meals for those in need. 

BK Fact: Within 2020 alone, the Rescued Food Program diverted more than 477 thousand pounds of food from landfills and recovered food to help create 1,748,848 meals. 

The Culinary Training Program

Through hands-on participation in a live kitchen environment, The Bracken’s Kitchen Culinary Training Program helps equip students with the basic skills necessary to excel in the hospitality industry. 

BK Fact: During the past year, Bracken’s Kitchen went from producing 8,000 meals per week to over 35,000 meals per week within the span of 5 weeks.

Community Feeding

Betsy and Babs, the two Bracken’s Kitchen food trucks are a staple throughout Orange County! If you see them out and about, they’re most likely on the way to directly deliver hot and healthy meals or pantry items to those in need. 

2 More Ways You Can Help Support Bracken’s Kitchen

Donate: Time, Attention, & More

Another way you can show your support for Bracken’s Kitchen is to donate to their efforts. While monetary donations are always great, we understand they may not always be feasible to make on a regular basis. 

Look through your pantry or closet! Things like quality canned items to help make nutritious meals, disposable serving supplies, or cleaning supplies are always welcome as in-kind donations. 

Rewards Member Donations

As a Paper Mart rewards member, you have the opportunity to earn points for every purchase made. Your earned points can be redeemed towards rewards like coupons for future purchases or a $10 donation towards Bracken’s Kitchen.

Simply navigate to your Rewards Dashboard and redeem your $10 Donation Reward.

Share: Virtual Events & Fundraisers

If you’re not able to give monetarily, no worries! Other ways you can help bring awareness to Bracken’s Kitchen and community feeding programs in your area are by throwing a virtual food drive, sharing their story with a friend, or by giving them a shout out on social media.

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