Nominee: Shaili Parekh

Shaili Parekh, Sous Chef & Instructor, Catholic Charities of Oregon / Germaine's Kitchen and Cafe    

Nominated by co-worker: Kelsey Allan

Shaili arrives at Germaine's between 7-8am to prepare for students arrival at 9am. She usually assists the second sous chef with lesson planning or meal prep in the hour before students arrive. Shaili leads morning lecture from 9-10am and then guides students through meal service to plate an average of 150 meals a day for three local homeless shelters. After meal service we eat family lunch and then Shaili and the second sous chef prepare for skills practice with the students in the afternoon. When the students leave at 3:30pm Shaili works until 5pm, many times later than that, to ensure that lesson plans are prepared and food is ordered so that the students have the best experience possible. Mondays are administrative days so on those days Shaili works hard to prepare lessons for the week, create menus for contract meals, places food orders, etc.

Shaili has been working with Catholic Charities since May of 2022. It hasn't been long, but she hit the ground running. A few months after she started our Executive Chef resigned and she had to step up as the sole leader for kitchen management, meal service, and instruction. Shaili brings an excitement and passion to her work that rubs off on the rest of the team and the students. Shaili started with CCO right as the third cohort of students was ending and soon after that our previous Executive Chef resigned. Despite receiving little to no training, she stepped up without having to be asked to ensure the kitchen continued to run smoothly and worked many long days prepping lessons for the next cohort. Her drive and dedication to provide an impactful training program is admirable.

Teaching students with learning disabilities and who are on the autism spectrum is not an easy feat. Shaili is one of the most patient teachers I know.. She is understanding and respectful when working in the classroom, but also pushes our students to try new things and get out of their comfort zones. Shaili also works hard to model a kitchen environment that is built on learning, growth, and respect. She is passionate about shifting the food industry to be a safer and a more equitable place to work and to become an industry that folks was to sustain a career in.

Shaili is passionate about using food as a way to engage and transform communities. Although this is only her first year with Germaine's Kitchen and Café, I can already see that she has accomplished this with our current cohort of students. She has inspired them to try new things and has exposed many of them to new foods, cultures, and career paths in the food industry. She has taken a curriculum outline that was lacking structure and visuals and transformed it into something that has worked well for our students. Shaili has also transformed the culture of our kitchen to one based on kindness and respect. We are new program and Shaili has been an integral part of our team as we work towards growing the training program and social enterprise.

Read more about Shaili and Germaine's Kitchen and Cafe here

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