Community Kitchen chef helps serve Harlem community with hot meals

A Harlem chef uses her passion for cooking to help feed her community.

Think of them as the Formula 1 pit crew of the kitchen at the Food Bank For New York City in Harlem moving with the same precision and care with Chef Sheri Jackson leading the team.

“I love food with all my heart and everything goes with it,” Jackson said.

All the hard work the team puts into cooking roughly 1,000 meals each day for those who need it most.

For Jackson, a single mother of two, it strikes a cord.

“It could have been me, there were days, my daughters would eat and I’m like, let’s hope they don’t finish that because, if one of them left it, that would be my food,” Jackson said.

Her passion for food came from helping her mother cook for their family of eight at just 9 years old.

“She told me exactly what to do,” Jackson said recalling a time in the kitchen with her mom. “Here put your water on with oil and don’t forget the salt.”

Jackson used that passion and knowledge to start her own catering business when she grew up, and then on her 50th birthday she had an idea.

“I came home with this great epiphany, I’m going to culinary school,” Jackson said.

She graduated from the Institute of Culinary Education in 2016 classically trained in French, Italian, and Asian cuisine. She became head chef at the Food Bank For New York in 2018, which she said still surprises some in the male-dominated culinary industry.

“I don’t have a problem with that,” Jackson said. “I prefer my work to speak for me, prefer putting everything in it this food we cook here, titles are great but at the end of the day, I’m still Sheri.”

The food bank has served the Harlem community since 1984 and provides more than 100,000 free meals each month through its food kitchen, pantry, and senior program.

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