Free Advice – Disgruntled Cooks

I have a bad Facebook habit.  i can quit anytime.  Maybe.

facebook snort

Part of it is that i am on some intentional community Facebook groups which have distinctly different politics generally than i do.  One of these groups is the Intentional Communities Discussion Group, a group which has more interested spirituality than i am, there are some rugged individualists, some folks into gun rights.  And they have questions.  This was one of them: 

Can you weigh in on this…?

The situation: Our community is roughly 40 adults. We are a non-profit, focusing on sustainable education. We offer lunch and dinner Mon-Fri with community members getting ‘credits’ for their cook and clean shifts (credits go toward their rent/fees). The schedule, ordering, organization and admin of the kitchen is managed by the kitchen coordinator.

The problems: We are having some difficulties running our kitchen effectively. We’re losing money (as we have to buy all organic ingredients). Cooks are uninspired to cook with variety (often cooking beans, rice and baked vegetables, over and over). People aren’t buying into our meal plans (perceptions of being too expensive, not meeting variety or dietary needs, etc).

cook with fire

The question: How do you run your kitchen? How do you keep costs down? Any tips on where to source cheaper organic ingredients? How do you keep cooks engaged in preparing *good* meals? How do you get community feedback on the communal dining experience?

*THANK YOU* for any input you can give us!!!

My advice:

I have a number of suggestions starting from the mundane and going to the radical.
Mundane first: Grow food/get food donated – If you have 40 members, some of them can garden. Gardening can be a maddening and low margin activity. Gardening also can be meditation, joy and salvation from the insanity of our current culture. Get your members to garden with the intention of having this be an input into your meals and something that community members do in place of some cooking. Additionally patrons of your cafe, who you want to include in the greater culture of your community can be asked either for surplus produce OR to “plant a row” for your community/cafe. Build relationships with your customers.
plant a row
Progressive: Expand the collection of cooks you have, by reaching out to your customers. Do trainings in how you kitchen works with experienced cooks showing new cooks (former customers) how it works and have them prepare meals together. Adding something new will make things more interesting for current cooks. Compensate new cooks with free future meals. Bring in a local TV station to cover a training session and your novel approach.
cooks being filmed
Radical: Change the nature of your community to be income sharing. If the members of the community were to pool their income to meet all their needs you could solve this problem in a number of ways. Technically, this is much less difficult than it sounds. Culturally, it is off the chart hard. We do it in the FEC communities, including importantly at Compersia in DC where members have dramatically different levels of income, debts and needs. BUT when you do make this jump, you take control of the collective economy, make sharing dramatically easier, reducing idle resources, taking control of your internal economy. If you want help understand this let me know.

About paxus

a funologist, memeticist and revolutionary. Can be found in the vanity bin of Wikipedia and in locations of imminent calamity. buckle up, there is going to be some rough sledding.

One response to “Free Advice – Disgruntled Cooks”

  1. jbird says :

    Beans, rice, and veggies sound like great, radical, and communal food. Hunger is the best spice. As the farmer who I work for says, repeating a line he heard in a kung fu movie, “go eat your mush.” Of course, our mush has some pretty great stuff in it… spinach, nettles, shiitake mushrooms. Maybe people need to leave their city lives and find an organic farm to be a part of? We can always use volunteers and nobody would leave without a box full of whatever the season is offering.

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