September 21, 2020

The pandemic won’t hinder meal prep for this Oakland youth catering business

At the posterior side of the Filoli gardens, vast oak trees frame a former tennis court at the historic grounds. The foliage creates a canopy that cools guests while they enjoy lunch prepared by Oakland’s catering business, The Town Kitchen.

An outdoor satellite café has been set up at Filoli’s Woodland Garden Court where a full team of young employees begin their shift. Most of the staff employed by The Town Kitchen are between ages 18 to 25 and come from underserved backgrounds. Some have been incarcerated. With the partnership at Filoli, the young team members are able to continue working through the pandemic while gaining entrepreneurial skills that can help them reenter society.

“We established the company to help foster and reentry youth or individuals living with criminal backgrounds,” said Eric Quick, CEO of The Town Kitchen. “We want to help elevate them professionally and economically.”

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Since the partnership, staff at The Town Kitchen have kept busy working between the satellite café and The Quail Nest Café near Filoli’s main entrance, creating assorted charcuterie boxes, grab-and-go sandwiches and salads available for purchase.

“We had a lot of philosophical alignment in what we were trying to do,” Quick said about Filoli. “Not just be an onsite caterer but really have a partnership that would allow us to produce high quality, seasonally focused meals and also leverage what they grow on the property.”

The salmon salad served by the Town Kitchen at the Quail's Nest Cafe at Filoli Gardens in Woodside. The Town Kitchen, based in Oakland, partnered with Filoli Gardens to provide food at the cafe on its grounds. The Town Kitchen is an organization that helps underserved and vulnerable youth get real work experience by preparing hundreds of meals a day for large corporations and other businesses.

The salmon salad served by the Town Kitchen at the Quail’s Nest Cafe at Filoli Gardens in Woodside. The Town Kitchen, based in Oakland, partnered with Filoli Gardens to provide food at the cafe on its grounds. The Town Kitchen is an organization that helps underserved and vulnerable youth get real work experience by preparing hundreds of meals a day for large corporations and other businesses.

Douglas Zimmerman/SFGATE

Seven days a week, The Town Kitchen can be found at Filoli but they can also be found at Chabot Space & Science Center. The catering business staffs about 40 employees that produce anywhere from 300 to 330 weekly meals between the two venues. Beyond that, 1,000 weekly meals are made separately on behalf of World Central Kitchen.

Business was booming for the five-year-old company, and Quick estimates that The Town Kitchen was set to grow by 200% until things were put at a brief standstill in March.

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