How a Cleveland Chef Ended Up Processing Meat for More than 10,000 Meals a Week for Nonprofit

By Edible Cleveland

Chef Adam Crawford at The City Club of Cleveland

Chef Adam Crawford came to the City Club of Cleveland eight years ago, bringing creativity and flavor to more than 300 forums and private events annually. He is no stranger to preparing food for big groups, serving on average 500 meals a week. But in March, when the full impact of Covid-19 was realized, his normally busy kitchen fell silent.

The City Club of Cleveland, an organization that promotes civic dialogue, transitioned to a virtual forum format on March 12, forgoing the usual luncheon program that would require the chef and his team to make 150-200 lunches several times a week. The kitchen was suddenly empty and the kitchen was idle. Like so many nonprofits in our community the Coronavirus upended programs and forced staff to work from home. But how does a chef work from home?

After managing the current food inventory, sending home perishables with the hourly catering staff, and deep cleaning and sanitizing the equipment and surfaces, Chef Adam yearned for purpose and a way to serve others. Instead of staying home, he asked if he could find a way to use the City Club’s licensed kitchen to help others in need.

In those early days of the shelter in place order, he watched as the neediest in our community had nowhere to go. “I knew that people would be hungry and that it would be a challenge to feed them all,” Chef Crawford said, “I wanted to find a way to help.” With the support of City Club leadership, Adam reached out to local nonprofits to find out who needed a kitchen.

Within two weeks he had set up a partnership with Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries (LMM), a local nonprofit with a workforce development program that provides culinary training, that has a central kitchen serving the area’s homeless shelters and runs a re-entry program with a special focus on serving women.

Chef Crawford’s call to LMM couldn’t have come at a better time. As the only redistribution site in the county serving Feeding America through the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, LMM had found that its food service needs tripled overnight and the food processing that was usually done by culinary students was severely understaffed.

Immediately, they diverted all their meat processing to the City Club’s kitchen and Chef Crawford and Sous Chef Neil Baron got busy. For a month now Adam has been receiving deliveries twice a week of hundreds of pounds of raw meat that he preps, seasons, cooks, and delivers back to LMM’s central kitchen be added to finished meals delivered to those homeless members of our community now housed in hotels throughout the Greater Cleveland area. To date he’s processed more than 4,000 pounds of meat. By working with Chef Crawford, LMM was able to free up its limited staff to accommodate the transition from serving to groups at a time to producing individual meals that could be delivered with new health regulations in place for social distancing.

Every day, three times a day, meals are delivered to those most in need. Meat for more than 10,000 meals a week comes from the City Club kitchen thanks to Chef Crawford’s generous spirit.

“He’s very humble. A chef with as much humility as talent is an extremely rare find,” says Chef Laura Campbell, Chef Instructor at LMM, who is managing LMM’s Central Kitchen services to the community.

Chef Crawford’s desire to use his culinary training and the City Club’s unused resources provided support to a partner nonprofit on the front lines of the Cleveland community bringing much needed meals to people who have no real home or consistent meals during this pandemic.

Read more Beyond the Plate local food hero stories. Learn more about our partners, Niman Ranch at nimanranch.com.

Get more local stories at Edible Cleveland.