Former executive chef Andre Owens is cooking up ways to involve and educate youth in the kitchen at The Chase Home, which is home for up to 15 youths at a time. “I really enjoy working with young people,” said Owens, who is now kitchen manager at The Chase Home. “I try to create a fun atmosphere in the kitchen, which has really allowed the kids to grow their culinary passions. They feel empowered to express themselves and bring their own ideas to life.”
According to Meme Wheeler, executive director at The Chase Home, Owens has brought a passion to his work that has made an immediate impact since he arrived in October 2021. “He cooks from scratch and has been a wonderful mentor to the kids,” she said.
His mentorship includes helping older youth in the Independent Living Program (ILP) to develop food budgets, effectively shop for groceries, and learn how to cook basic meals. Owens is also apt to provide general life lessons to the youth.
“I would like the kids to know that it is okay to not be sure of what you want to do in life right away,” he said. “To me, life is a ride. Without experiencing different things and challenging yourself, you cannot find the path to what you truly want to do.”
Making mistakes, noted Owens, is part of life. “It’s okay to make mistakes and to try out different things,” he said. “This allows you to grow into the person you’re meant to be.”
“Without experiencing different things and challenging yourself, you cannot find the path to what you truly want to do.” – Chef Andre Owens
Applauding his commitment to the broader vision of The Chase Home, Wheeler said Owens will incorporate culinary arts into the residential program this summer. “He will work with every youth who lives at Chase Home and help them make meals for the dorms,” she said. “Summer will be awesome, as Andre will also teach the kids how to create garden to table meals, and he will be a big part of what we plant in the garden.”
Noting most kids who come to The Chase Home are food insecure with underdeveloped palettes with vegetables not part of their meals, Wheeler said Owens has done “a nice job gently coaxing kids to try new food.” “He keeps the staff very happy with his homemade empanadas, too,” she added.
Founded in 1877, The Chase Home in Portsmouth provides at-risk youth across the state with prevention, early intervention, residential, and community-based services.