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15 Years Later, Providence Still Changing Lives Through Food

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

Meals that matter

Brian DePaulis stared at Wake Correctional Center’s walls in Raleigh and Dianah Bethel eyed another garage door to be hung in Winston-Salem when The Moment arrived and life suddenly changed for the better.

For DePaulis, it was the decision to get sober and return to the culinary world he’d rapidly ascended from dishwasher to sous chef before drugs and a burglary conviction led to imprisonment.

For Bethel, it was her dad passing along a tip from one of his garage door customers about an ‘in’ to the cooking career field she’d dreamed of ever since she was a child tugging at her mom’s apron strings asking ‘how did you?’ questions as she cooked holiday meals.

Today, DePaulis is Bethel’s boss and both are pleasing palates and changing lives at Tanglewood Park and beyond through Providence, a family of programs of Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

Providence celebrates its 15th anniversary this month.

“It’s great to have a legacy like ours serving meals that matter,” says Chef Jeff Bacon, VP and Executive Director, of Providence’s start in November 2006. “It’s the most socially conscious food you’ll ever eat.”

Then known as Triad Community Kitchen, the fledgling culinary training program grew far beyond Winston-Salem over the next 15 years to reach thousands of lives in Forsyth, Guilford, Rockingham, Stokes, Surry, and Yadkin counties.

“Every second chance and career track we provide to our more than 800 graduates, every event we cater and every nutritious meal we create and deliver through partner agencies is important because people are the heart of our mission,” Bacon says.

From one program to many

Providence now:

  • Equips future chefs and restaurant managers through its Culinary Training Program

  • Runs the food service at Tanglewood Park (Providence Grill and Providence at the Manor House)

  • Operates Providence Catering, the preferred provider for Legacy Stables, Tanglewood, Triple J Manor House, and WinMock at Kinderton

  • Makes chili for 60 Lowes Food stores

  • Runs a Community Meals Program that distributes about 20,000 meals weekly to school children, senior adults, and community-shelter residents.

DePaulis became executive chef of Providence at the Manor House, the Providence Grill, and Providence Catering in January 2021 and promoted Bethel to Grill lead in March.

Second Harvest began Providence in 2006 to train future cooks and address one of the root causes of food insecurity – joblessness or employment below a livable wage.

Only 28 food banks nationwide offer similar culinary programs.

"[W]hat we're doing here is so much bigger than food. It's about character and integrity and and helping people be there best."

“I tell my staff what we're doing here is so much bigger than food. It's about character and integrity and helping people be their best."

DePaulis has quickly put the Manor House on the culinary scene with special Providence at the Manor House Valentine’s, Hoots Beer, and Spanish Tapas dinners at the bed and breakfast. Up next: a Dec. 5 dinner with Santa and Mrs. Claus followed by a wagon ride through the Tanglewood Festival of Lights.

Although subject to change due to COVID-19, DePaulis hopes to build from these events to offer regular Friday and Saturday evening dinner seatings in 2022. Other than DePaulis and his sous chef, all his staff are Providence graduates.

That includes Bethel who, since becoming the youngest to lead Providence Grill at age 22, has expanded the menu and added two vegetarian options. Her favorite, and many golfers’ too, is The Carolina Cuban – a sandwich piled high with pulled pork, smoked ham, swiss cheese, jalapeno bacon, and flavored with mustard and CHA! mayo.

“I love what I do,” says Bethel, who completed 13 weeks of training and a two-year residency with Providence. “If it wasn’t for Providence, I honestly still think I’d be installing garage doors. It wasn’t what I wanted to do. Ultimately, my passion is food.”

Allies and mentors

Local restaurateurs Vivián Joiner and Stephanie Tyson and Timothy Grandinetti can relate. Joiner and Tyson’s Sweet Potatoes restaurant, and Grandinetti’s Spring House Restaurant, Kitchen & Bar and Quanto Basta restaurants are more than culinary landmarks in Winston-Salem. They’re learning labs and career springboards for Providence students.

“We celebrate our own 19th anniversary in January and have been working with Providence since it started,” Tyson says. “We’ve had 25 students do their one-week internship here and have hired eight or nine over the years. We’re giving positive feedback and teaching the students. It might be, ‘Peel it this way, it’s faster.’

“When they leave they will take that bit of knowledge with them. It’s an exchange. You teach and you learn something new from them too.

"Everybody deserves an opportunity,” Joiner adds, “and it’s hard to get started in something new. Providence has been that steppingstone. For the greater community, I believe the more people feel good about themselves and feel productive the better it is for all of us.”

"Everybody deserves an opportunity,” Joiner adds, “and it’s hard to get started in something new. Providence has been that steppingstone. For the greater community, I believe the more people feel good about themselves and feel productive the better it is for all of us.”

Grandinetti employs six Providence grads and sees his role not just as owner and chef but coach.

“In my career, I’ve had the privilege of meeting and shaking hands with some of the finest chefs in the world,” he says. “It’s like a young Little League baseball player meeting Reggie Jackson in our business.

“It’s amazing what a kind word or sharing of a technique or constructive criticism will do to help push you to the next level. I think the compassion, patience and hope that Chef Bacon and his team brings to Winston-Salem is amazing.

“We need a skilled culinary brigade here if we’re to be a dining destination. We struggle for team members right now and being short-staffed so it’s more important now than ever.”

Career prep

Chef Daryl Pobanz, who became the Culinary Training Program’s director in April, says about 80 percent of graduates still live locally and work for local businesses or Providence operations.

Pobanz, who began working in restaurants at age 16 before later earning culinary and nutrition degrees, enjoys teaching students from a wide variety of backgrounds. He’s particularly focused on helping them make industry connections, shine in interviews, and jump start their careers.

“My goal is to expose them to as much as I can and put them in a position where the first couple of weeks of training they’d have in a restaurant are already done,” he says.

While referrals come from many sources, Pobanz adds Goodwill Industries of Northwest NC and Forsyth Tech Community College have been vital partners in the program’s success.

Goodwill helps evaluate and assess candidates coming into the program and Forsyth Technical Community College certified the program and provides a certificate of completion and transferable credits for all graduates.

“When they leave us, the objective is to have them come into the interview process a few notches above the average applicant so they’re considered for a line cook or supervisory role,” Pobanz says. “I’m proud of my students and what we’re building through Providence and proud of all the hard work that went into creating Providence 15 years ago.

“It’s the first time in my life I literally love my job, and I was so happy to come to work here I was almost in tears when I got the news.”

$40 million impact

According to the Roberts Enterprise Development Fund’s Social Return on Investment (SROI) calculator, Bacon says the net impact of Providence’s programs is more than $40 million in Winston-Salem and Forsyth County alone.

With its new and dedicated production and training kitchens and other space – more than double the current space – he says Second Harvest’s new headquarters at Whitaker Park should further extend its influence.

Currently under construction, the 139,192 square foot building consolidates three separate locations into one and is scheduled to open in fall 2022.

Growing needs

YVEDDI Senior Services in Boonville, N.C., is one of the latest nonprofits in the Northwest Piedmont already benefiting from Providence’s growth through its Community Meal Program — deliveries about 10 times the amount prepared in 2006 when Providence first began providing meals to shelters.

Each week, Providence’s refrigerated trucks make two runs to supply YVEDDI’s network of five senior centers in Surry and Yadkin counties. Homebound residents get five days of food on Tuesdays, while those at the centers get a lunch served on Thursday.

“We began contracting with Providence in July and our clients and participants are pleased with the change,” says Lisa Money, YVEDDI’s director. “They like the variety of the menu and the fresh food much better than the frozen. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in the need due to the pandemic,” Money adds. “We served about 94,000 meals in 2020. It’s been a very trying time for our seniors, particularly in sites like East Bend where there isn’t a grocery store or for seniors who don’t drive.

“For our program, one of the biggest benefits is the socialization since we know loneliness and isolation can be very detrimental to physical and mental health,” she adds.

“When people are able to come into the sites and enjoy a meal together, it really helps. Providence is helping us be there for our seniors when they need us most.”

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Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest NC

3655 Reed St. 

Winston-Salem, NC 27107

Tel: 336-784-5770

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