Oakland start up feeding more than just bellies

Global Business

Oakland start up feeding more than just bellies

In Oakland, California, the Town Kitchen lunch box service is in full swing.

Precision, creativity and teamwork; but most of all, the young kitchen staff here is taking advantage of opportunity.

CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

Jefferson Sevilla is the co-founder and executive chef.

“We have some youth who have been incarcerated, who have been through foster care system, who have been involved in human trafficking, who have been homeless at some point in their lives. And that was probably one of my most important things establishing this company is to create a safe haven for young people of all kinds to come in and feel like it’s home.”

Brian Zamora who now works at Town Kitchen, lived in an Oakland neighborhood surrounded by robbery, drugs and violence.  

“All of a sudden I just see someone pull behind the car and pull a gun and just start shooting the back of the car. I remember that day in particular, I realized if I don’t do something with my life, I could end up like that.” Zamora came to Town Kitchen knowing nothing about cooking. “I was shaking and I was nervous remember that first day I cut my finger with a peeler.”

Today, Brian is able to manage the entire kitchen when the executive chef’s gone. Newcomer Jennifer Aguirre also recalls growing up in Oakland, always having to watch her back. “All of a sudden a car stops and he starts shooting to the house next to me and my first thought I was in shock, ” Aguirre said.

Today, Jennifer is attending a university and helping to pay for it by working at Town Kitchen, where wages start several dollars higher than minimum wage. “It’s like giving you a goal to not just be stuck in one place but to keep on growing.”

The Town Kitchen’s lunchbox has all the allergens listed on top. The ingredients are locally sourced. You get an entree, a dessert and a drink. For $13, you’re getting a high-quality nutritious meal and much more. Co-founder Sevilla is a former Google Chef who’s teamed up with partners to build the Town Kitchen as a startup that’s raised one million dollars in venture capital funding so far.

It plans to expand to ultra-competitive Silicon Valley next year. 

The Town Kitchen in Oakland, California, is not your typical kitchen. Its founders employ and train at-risk, or inner city youth and helps reintegrate them into society. The Town Kitchen’s staff tell us what their jobs mean to them.