Our new kitchen is doubling in size and has a new chef

New Kitchen of Opportunities chef Michelle Spieker removes vegetable lasagna from oven

Big things are happening at the Meals on Wheels Kitchen of Opportunities, which opened in March as the first local kitchen dedicated to serving Twin Cities Meals on Wheels recipients.

By the beginning of 2018, the Kitchen of Opportunities will double the number of meals it serves, from 500 to 1,100. This expansion comes as all of our Ramsey County eight neighborhood sites began serving meals from the new kitchen. They join Community Emergency Service Meals on Wheels (Minneapolis), CEAP Meals on Wheels (Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center) and Mobile Meals of Northern Dakota County (South St. Paul, West St. Paul, Inver Grove Heights, Mendota Heights), the neighborhood sites already serving meals from the new kitchen.

The goal of the Kitchen of Opportunities is simple: to provide the highest quality meals to Meals on Wheels recipients at the lowest possible cost. Meals on Wheels contracts with Open Arms of Minnesota for the production of the meals, as they have a rich history of providing great-tasting meals for people with HIV and other life-threatening illnesses. The culinary staff at the Kitchen of Opportunities focuses on using fresh ingredients and from-scratch recipes whenever possible. 

And by bringing the cost of meals down, it means more money is available to help provide access to meals to those who need it most. 

Meet the Kitchen of Opportunities’ new chef

New Meals on Wheels Kitchen of Opportunities Chef Michelle Spieker

We’re excited to welcome Michelle Spieker as the new chef of the Kitchen of Opportunities! Michelle has been working in the food industry for 11 years and comes to the Kitchen of Opportunities after plying her trade at a number of great Twin Cities restaurants, including Ox Cart Ale House and Pajarito in St. Paul. Michelle joined the Kitchen of Opportunities as a cook in March before recently being promoted to chef.

Michelle says she jumped at the opportunity to work at the Kitchen of Opportunities because she’s deeply interested in using her skills to help alleviate health disparities caused by lack of access to proper nutrition. She also values the chance to make an impact on people’s lives simply by inspiring the joy that goes along with a good meal.

“We do a lot of things that we consider down-home cooking,” says Michelle. While much of the focus is on familiar favorites like meatloaf or chicken casserole, Michelle says there’s value in providing variety to keep the meals interesting. Last month, for example, chicken curry was a new addition to the menu.

“We like to test the waters to see what people are into,” says Michelle. The Kitchen of Opportunities then uses feedback from recipients in its menu planning.

You can catch Michelle in action and get a great recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu, as she recently joined KARE11 for an in-studio cooking segment.

Expansion possible thanks to donor support

Neither this most recent expansion, nor the Meals on Wheels Kitchen of Opportunities, would be possible without the help of so many of you who provide financial support to Meals on Wheels.

We owe a particularly large thanks to everyone who helped us meet our Give to the Max Day goal of raising enough money to support the purchase of a new delivery vehicle. That new vehicle is needed to get the meals out to the new Ramsey County neighborhood delivery sites.

With $26,443 donated on Give to the Max Day coupled with a $25,350 matching gift from a generous group of donors, a total of $51,793 was raised – enough to cover the purchase of a new delivery vehicle and a little extra to support seniors in need. Thank you to everyone who helped us meet this ambitious goal!