The notion of a cafeteria lunch may seem like a throwback, but a new cafeteria in the CBD comes from a group that’s firmly focused on the future, namely of the young people it serves.
Liberty’s Kitchen, the youth development program known for its Mid-City cafe, has expanded with a second eatery at 1615 Poydras St., within the Freeport McMoRan building. It officially opened today, May 8. To find it, you cross the lobby of the high rise, take an elevator to the third floor and follow your nose.
The new Liberty’s Kitchen location has taken over what had been an old school corporate cafeteria – formerly called Eurest Cafeteria. The space has been revamped, though it’s still configured with a succession of food stations for a quick breakfast and lunch (see the sample menu below).
There’s a salad bar and a deli for sandwiches and a daily light meal developed through the Eat Fit NOLA program. There’s a grill for burgers (including a black bean burger) and other hot sandwiches, and a station just for wings. The centerpiece is a hot lunch counter with dishes like baked catfish or roasted chicken, with homey sides and soups.
Like the Liberty’s Kitchen cafe on North Broad Street, the new location also has a Starbucks coffee bar through a partnership with the coffee giant.
While the cafeteria has a different format from its predecessor cafe, the mission and program behind it all is consistent.
Liberty’s Kitchen is a nonprofit that serves youth who are out of school and out of work, using the framework of a restaurant and food service to deliver training and support to change the course of their lives. The two restaurants where it serves the public, and the school nutrition program it provides to local campuses, generate revenue for the nonprofit and are part of the program for youth.
“We’re always looking for new opportunities to expand our reach,” said David Emond, executive director of Liberty’s Kitchen. “Everything we evaluate has to bring money to the mission, but it also has to increase our impact.”
In particular, the new Poydras location is a place for next-step training for students in the program and graduates who get continuing support from Liberty’s Kitchen.
“For those who want to know how do I get to the next promotion, how do I get to be a sous chef, this is a place where we can help them move up to a career-level position,” said Emond.
Liberty’s Kitchen worked with Freeport-McMoRan to develop the new location. In a statement, Pam Masson, vice president of administration for Freeport-McMoRan in New Orleans, said her company partnered with the nonprofit to “expand this highly successful program to provide much-needed training to our youth in New Orleans.”
“We have great respect for the people at Liberty’s Kitchen and their mission, and it is with pride that we offer support to this fine organization,” Masson said.
Liberty’s Kitchen was formed in 2009. It started small, in a raised basement below a Mid-City law office (the current home of the grilled cheese shop the Big Cheezy). In 2015, the organization made a big move just a few blocks down Broad Street as part of the ReFresh Project, a Mid-City development that is also home to a Whole Foods Market, Tulane University’s Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine and other community groups.
That is still the headquarters and home base for its programs, while its cafe here serves breakfast and lunch on weekdays and brunch on Saturdays. Soon, the Broad Street location will expand its teaching facilities, adding more room for its Youth Development Center and space for the classes, communal meals and outreach events that are part of the program.
While food is the focal point of the group’s training and public interaction, Dennis Bagneris, director of youth success at Liberty’s Kitchen, points out that the goal is to prepare students for success in any career path they choose.
“We’re an organization that’s bent on youth leadership. The kitchen is a means to get there,” said Bagneris
1615 Poydras St., Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
300 N. Broad St.. Mon.-Fri. 7 a.m.-3 p.m., Sat. 8 a.m.-2 p.m.
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