Nonprofit for at-risk chefs opens doors to displaced Santa Rosa residents during fire

- Santa Rosa residents may not be able to return to their homes on Tuesday because of the wildfires still raging through wine country.

But they were able to get a good hot meal. That’s if they stopped by the Worth Our Weight nonprofit restaurant on Hahman Drive, where head chef and executive director Evelyn Cheatham and her culinary staff prepared beans, dahl and a cooked goose for lunch. She threw her doors open on Monday, and about 90 people came in to work, drink coffee and dine for free at her nonprofit restaurant. On Tuesday, she and her staff prepared  a buffet for anyone displaced by the fires.

“We do this all the time,” Cheatham said. “We are people taking care of each other.”

Cheatham’s culinary apprentice program has run for 11 years. She was named woman of the year in 2016 by U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Sonoma County).

Her program takes in young people ages 16 to 24 who have faced “major challenges in their lives, including foster care, difficulties with the law, homelessness and significant family disruption” and trains them to be chefs.

Jeremy Lowcher Jr., 23, is a chef apprentice under her leadership. He helped out during the last set of fires in Lake County, and now, he said he’s pleased to be helping those with a tragedy that is “hitting directly home for us. Anyone that needs help, our doors our open.”

Alan McLintock, who lives in the Oakmont area of Santa Rosa, which is under mandatory evacuation, walked into those doors.

“We have no idea how the house is right now,” he said. “We are very anxious.”

He and his wife heard about the free meals on the radio and not only ate brisket and frittata there on Monday, they slept over on blow-up mattresses provided by the staff overnight.

“The people here are so kind,” he said, “and so caring. This is a wonderful program.”

IF YOU'RE INTERESTED in learning more about the program, click here.

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