By Becca King
Lead Chef, Stone Soup
Our lead chef, Kirsten Johl-Levitt comes to Stone Soup from a family
background rich in giving to others, cooking for large crowds, and
paying attention to the well-being of those less fortunate than they were.
Born in 1964, Kirsten was raised by a Christian mother from Charlotte,
North Carolina and a Jewish father who was an actor from New York
City.She remembers her parents giving large parties at which she loved
to help prepare and then pass dishes of hors doeuvres and other
delicacies.Both parents enjoyed exploring different foods from different
cultures and could recreate a recipe just from having tasted it
once.They could identify the spices and composition of the sauces
without looking at a cookbook.Kirsten has inherited this skill, which
she brings to her menus at Stone Soup.
At age 21, as a single mother looking for community support, she started
cooking for large crowds in a UUA church which held Circle Suppers with
a main dish supported by pot luck items the participants brought.
Kirsten was in charge of the main dish each month. This led to her
catering for conferences by the age of 25 while she worked full time as
a bookkeeper. At age 30 she made the decision to switch careers to
teaching which gave her more time with her son and more time for her
love of cooking.When asked if she ever went to cooking school, she
replied Never! I just learned by doing.
While Kirsten and her sister Melanie werent raised in a synagogue or
church, they were raised with a strong sense of morals and
ethics.Kirsten tells of many occasions when they would visit their
father who had hit some difficult financial times after her parents were
divorced. He would tell them what fun things they were going to do that
day go to a free pass at a museum, or a play, and then to the ice
cream parlor. En route to the ice cream parlor they often encountered a
homeless person on the street who asked for some spare change. Kirsten
recalls that her father always invited that person to join them for a
cup of coffee or a cone at the ice cream parlor- goodbye ice cream for
the girls hello to a new person. Her father exposed her to every type
of person and culture, so she learned to be accepting of
differences.What mattered to her family was who you are inside, not how
you look on the outside. Ever since, Kirsten has had an affinity for
people who have had to live on the marginal side of life, understanding
that there is no we/they but that all of us, any of us, are vulnerable
in some area of our lives and deserve respect and help when needed.
Being head cook gives Kirsten a place to give motherly love and care now
that her son, Max, 26, is grown.Guests at Stone Soup Café come first as
far as Im concerned, said Kirsten. They deserve a break from their
struggles out there in the world. Stone Soup can be a respite for all.
As a volunteer, Kirsten gives from 12 - 15 hrs. a week in the
procurement of food and supplies, menu creation based on what
ingredients she gets from various sources, and preparation of the dishes
Friday nights and Saturday mornings with a team of volunteers.
It is our great blessing to have Kirsten Johl-Levitt devote her time
outside of teaching to Stone Soup. As a member of the Board as well as
key liaison to All Souls Church, she is central to the success of our
weekly meals.Thank you, Kirsten !