Interviewed by Heidi Buelow
Meet Allen Beene, a mixed-media portrait artist and one of our Spring 2017 apprentices, who joined The Food Shift Kitchen (TFSK) program after a multi-year stint at the Alameda Point Collaborative (APC) Farm. The APC Farm job provided many healthy perks, as Allen could bring home fresh fruits and vegetables for his family. This was an essential benefit after his daughter was born with food allergies and could only eat chicken, vegetables, and fruit. Already armed with a perspective that valued fresh produce, Allen learned of TFSK’s culinary apprenticeship opportunity and signed on. He now enjoys introducing his family to the new healthy foods he prepares from the veggies and fruits at TFSK.
Allen’s enthusiasm is evident when he talks about cooking with Chef Terrell. His favorite part of the culinary training is working with Chef, whom he values as a great professional and mentor, who provides a high-quality learning experience. Allen appreciates the diversity of the food and methods. “Being a part of this program is being a part of something important,” he says. “This program is valuable because you really learn how to perform in the kitchen. The credentials you earn with Chef will be valuable for future jobs and other opportunities.”
Not only is Allen learning a lot about kitchen operations, but also how to cook for large groups. When his TSFK stint is completed, he’d like to continue to offer his art shows, but combining food and art, by preparing food as an additional draw to bring people to the shows. Patrons can decide for themselves what they like and enjoy a nice treat from the kitchen while at the show.
Allen is also considering ways to expand his work by looking for help sponsoring art shows and starting a gallery for young artists that would promote entrepreneurship for artistic youth, encouraging them to believe in their own art. “They should show their art and not worry what others might or might not like,” he advises.
While Allen himself has staged very popular events, it’s hard for people just starting out to put them together. He would like to initiate a junior high school level class and get kids involved, learning how to show and sell their art. Allen is currently coordinating a mural project for a local elementary school based on his own design. He will teach the basics of painting and design while the kids learn new art skills and create the mural themselves over the course of the school year. He envisions being a mentor for students in the same way Chef has been a mentor to him. The Food Shift Kitchen experience will open new pathways for Allen’s mentoring ideas, combining art and food to enhance his own artistic achievements, as well as for aspiring young artists.