Local chef Bill Bracken took hardship and transformed it as a way to feed those in need in Orange County.
It all started in 2011 when the recession was at its worst. Chef Bill Bracken lost his long-lived career cooking for the Four Seasons Hotel and found himself starting over again like many others throughout the country.
“I watched a lot of really good people lose their jobs, and I believe God was calling me to do something about it,” says Bracken.
That’s when Bracken’s Kitchen was born.
Calling themselves a “for impact company,” Bracken’s Kitchen’s mission statement is “Through food rescue, culinary training and our community feeding program we are committed to rescuing, re-purposing and restoring both food and lives.” Bracken’s Kitchen dedicates itself to rescuing hundreds of thousands of pounds of food every year that would otherwise go to waste, and re-purposes it for those who are in need of a warm, nutritious meal.
Bracken’s Kitchen started out in a food truck because Bracken never saw himself serving the community in a food pantry or soup kitchen. The idea actually came to Bracken while he was brainstorming at a Starbucks and he saw a food truck driving by — he knew that was the direction he wanted to go as he knew the last thing hungry people need is to use their precious food dollars on gas to drive to a food pantry. He wanted to bring the food to the people, and he did for a few years.
Since then, Bracken’s Kitchen has grown by leaps and bounds as Bracken says the food truck is the smallest aspect to his business now, although he believes it keeps his business connected to the community. Today, Bracken’s Kitchen operates out of a 9,000-square-foot kitchen as well as a 17,000-square-foot warehouse next door.
- Local Chef Gives Back to Impoverished Communities Through Donations & Job Opportunities
- Make-A-Wish OCIE President Gloria Jetter Crockett Grants Wishes to Critically Ill Children
- Local Charity Foundation Owner Helps Immigrants and Refugees Assimilate Into Their New Communities
As for the main objective of Bracken’s Kitchen, Bracken says, “I’m a realist, there will always be people in need. We can’t eliminate hunger or poverty, but we ought to have some solutions for it and I hope Bracken’s Kitchen provides that.”
Bracken believes that rescuing the 40 percent of food that is destined for the landfill is the way to get the ball rolling. Bracken’s Kitchen specializes in taking a random assortment of rescued foods they receive daily and turning them into nutritious meals for those in need all over the county. “Using rescued food, we always joke that we are the biggest episode of Chopped you’ll ever see because we never know which food will be coming through our doors on any given day,” Bracken says with a chuckle.
Bracken says that the kitchen is a family business as his wife and three children (ages 13, 25 and 29) are all involved with it.
“My family is involved in every way you can imagine. My wife is a board member, my youngest son is on the frontlines — he was 3 years old when he started working with us. My daughter handles all of our social media and office admin work, and although my oldest son is a little father away from us now, he was also always very involved. This has always been a family journey from the very beginning,” says Bracken.
When explaining what the future is for Bracken’s Kitchen, Bracken knows he does not want to be a national name and have kitchens in every state. Due to COVID, Bracken’s Kitchen has delivered over a-million-and-a-half meals a year the last two years and things don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon. Bracken says he wants to continue rescuing food and training young people how to cook in order to help create a path out of poverty. He believes Bracken’s Kitchen’s model is part of the future of combating hunger and food waste.
By Jessie Dax-Setkus