Alyssa is known to the Café as one of the regular sous chef volunteers that Head Chef Kirsten Johl Levitt relies on. Alyssa has even taken lead chef responsibilities when Kirsten has been called away on a couple of Saturdays. Her background at Franklin County Tech high school in Culinary Arts led her to GCC for an Associates degree in Liberal Arts and now to Holyoke Community College where she is working on a certificate in Culinary Arts, preparing her to enter the restaurant field as a professional cook.
Volunteerism has been part of Alyssa’s life since she can remember. The volunteer ethic was instilled in her through her family where she was happy to help each parent prepare food for the family, baking with her mother, and snacks and grilling with her Dad. After Franklin Tech, Alyssa joined the Community Action Youth Program Youth Program where she became a peer leader recruiting other youth to join CAYP programs. There she was able to develop her artistic skills designing posters, flyers and outreach packets along with developing strategies to engage kids in CAYP’s programs.
Alyssa came to Stone Soup Cafe in 2012 and headed straight for then kitchen where then Chef Izzy Sarto was in charge. Shortly after Alyssa arrived, Izzy left to deliver her baby and Kirsten stepped in to Head Chef position. Having worked at the Café off and on while she was attending GCC, Alyssa has been a weekly regular at the Café since the beginning of this summer when Kirsten asked her to Sous Chef with her. The “Sous” is the person the lead chef relies on to step in and take responsibility for the delivery of each dish on time. The Sous is one who knows the lead chef’s needs without asking. Alyssa proved herself in this role so that when it became clear that Kirsten would be out of commission for 6 weeks this summer for recovery from surgery, Alyssa came to mind as one who could step in to handle the preparation of the Café meal on a Saturday in July and again in September. Most recently Alyssa was lead chef on October 4th, managing a full menu of many dishes, a team of 8 volunteers, and informing the servers how to serve each dish. She is grateful that Kirsten prepared her so well with well-documented notes on each dish and a time-schedule for each. She learned from her challenges and strengths. Her challenges were learning to make coffee when she doesn’t drink it and didn’t know how much to make, communicating in public to a large group of servers she hadn’t met before, and pulling off the meal preparation when she received Kirsten’s thorough notes only that morning. Alyssa also learned to take control of then kitchen, delegate to the other volunteers, assess her team’s strengths and assign them tasks accordingly. In the future she’d like to develop more confidence as a public speaker, learn to make dessert, and master the art of providing unlimited coffee.
One other area of Alyssa’s life that expresses her passion for community building is through dance at Karen’s Dance Studio in Greenfield where she is assistant Hip Hop teacher. She has performed at Six Flags New England, the Turners Falls Pumpkinfest on Oct 18, Old Home Days in Montague, Sheffield School Carnival and several nursing homes. For Alyssa, Dance is not unlike her work at Stone Soup Café in that she has to work with a team, communicate often and clearly with others, and work to develop people’s strengths. The Café is grateful to have this dedicated woman gifting us with her talents, energetic spirit and experience. Dance on, Alyssa! We applaud you in every way!
By Becca King