Soup kitchen: Tourism board CEO over­sees gourmet meal prepa­ra­tion Food drive: Board fol­lows through on pledge to pope to help end hunger

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - SUNDAY SELECT - By Gary Puleo gpuleo@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @Mus­tangMan48 on Twit­ter

It smelled for all the world like Thanks­giv­ing Day at Siloam Bap­tist Church soup kitchen on Fri­day morn­ing.

But it was a chicken, not a turkey, roast­ing in the oven, un­der the watch­ful culi­nary eye of Val­ley Forge Tourism and Con­ven­tion Board CEO and oc­ca­sional chef Mike Bow­man.

Bow­man had en­listed the help of stu­dent chefs from the Culi­nary Arts In­sti­tute of Montgomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege and his own tourism board staff to help pre­pare and serve a gourmet-style meal for the soup kitchen guests, cul­mi­nat­ing the prom­ise of an ag­gres­sive Free­dom From Hunger food drive.

“I told them that what­ever they had at the soup kitchen I would make work, and they had chicken, so we made a slow-roasted, pan-seared chicken,” said Bow­man, who honed his cook­ing skills at such iconic restau­rants as the Parker House in Bos­ton and the Fon­tainebleau in Florida.

Round­ing out the menu were salad, grilled

veg­eta­bles, wild mush­room ragout and brown­ies and ice cream for dessert.

“It was fun cook­ing again. I cook at home some­times and I love to grill,” Bow­man said. “The tim­ing was per­fect … the food was hot, the fla­vors were there and we all had a great time, and it’s very ful­fill­ing to do some­thing like this. We thought there would be 30 or 40 peo­ple, but over 50 peo­ple came for the meal.”

It’s tough to pre­dict how many will show up for the Fri­day lunch each week, noted Tammy Thomp­son, who di­rects the Meals of Hope Min­istry here.

“We pre­pare for 50 and some­times we can of­fer sec­onds to peo­ple. We do av­er­age about 30 or 40 peo­ple,” noted Thomp­son, whose hus­band, Percy, is the reg­u­lar soup kitchen chef.

The tourism board is in the midst of a drive to raise 1,776 pounds of food in Montgomery County, fol­low­ing through on a prom­ise to Pope Fran­cis in 2015 to ad­dress

the lo­cal hunger need on a yearly ba­sis in the Pon­tiff’s name.

“It just made sense,” Bow­man said of the food drive. “The sug­ges­tions were all around stuff. But Pope Fran­cis wasn’t about stuff. He was about care for the poor. So we es­tab­lished a food drive around his visit and gave him a procla­ma­tion that an­nounced it as a yearly show of sup­port.”

Phi­l­abun­dance is the tourism board’s “boots on the ground in get­ting all those food do­na­tions to one cen­tral point and then get­ting them back out into the county where they’re needed,” noted the tourism board’s mar­ket­ing direc­tor, Dan Weck­erly. “We just didn’t have the re­sources to get the food to where it needed to be.”

Sean Bres­lin of Phi­l­abun­dance noted: “Through Phi­l­abun­dance I lead the Montco Anti-Hunger Net­work, a coali­tion of large food pantries in Montgomery County. We’re happy to come out sup­port Val­ley Forge Tourism for this event and we’re thrilled for the help.”

Pas­tor John H. West III re­flected on the soup kitchen’s con­sis­tency in get­ting food

on the ta­ble for those who need it.

“We’ve had this min­istry for al­most 20 years now, in which we in­vite peo­ple from the com­mu­nity to come in and we share with them a good meal, a good mes­sage and some good mu­sic,” he said. “We’re just happy that peo­ple in the com­mu­nity, many of whom are hav­ing hard times and dif­fi­cult times, can sit and re­lax in a so­cially warm en­vi­ron­ment and hope­fully send some of the Chris­tian spirit that we hope to em­u­late in some of our ac­tiv­i­ties here.”

Siloam Bap­tist Church is cur­rently in the mid­dle of a $1 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion project.

“We’re putting up a build­ing that will al­low us to ex­pand our ser­vices to the com­mu­nity,” West said. “We are in­ten­tion­ally not build­ing a sanc­tu­ary. What we are do­ing is at­tempt­ing to help the com­mu­nity at large. We’re do­ing this in dif­fi­cult times, but we serve a great God who will pro­vide. And if any­body wants to help us, we’re open to their con­tri­bu­tions at 1329 Wil­low St., Nor­ris­town.”

For more in­for­ma­tion on Free­dom From Hunger, visit val­ley­


Help­ing to pre­pare a gourmet meal at Siloam Bap­tist Church soup kitchen Fri­day, Sept. 30, 2016, are, from left, An­gela Cilib­erto Lutz, David Sei­den­berg, Mike Bow­man, Me­lanie Ha­gen, Jes­sica Ja­cobs and Tay­lor Tro­pea.


A Montgomery County Com­mu­nity Col­lege Culi­nary Arts In­sti­tute stu­dent puts the fin­ish­ing touches on a plat­ter to be served at the Siloam Bap­tist Church soup kitchen on Fri­day, Sept. 30, 2016.

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