Chef expanding Opportunity Village culinary programs

Cindy Chartrand, who’s been executive chef at Opportunity Village since February, has big plans for the organization’s Kitchen Creations Catering team. Chartrand said she wants to add hot meals to the cookie and cold-tray services the team provides.

“It’ll cover hors d’oeuvres, dinner salads, brunches — everything you can think of that you can find in a catering menu,” she said. “We have the facilities, we have the kitchen, we have great staff. It was really just a matter of having a business plan and being able to produce menus and cost them out so we can come up with a financially beneficial arrangement for our customers, while we are still making money for the clients” served at Opportunity Village.

Chartrand has a varied background. A self-described graduate of the “school of hard knocks,” she owned restaurants and catering services in several states and did consulting work for start-ups and troubled restaurants.

“I concentrated a lot on meal programs with schools, senior communities, hospitals and direct-care type of places,” she said. “I wanted to work with vulnerable populations. I had done that in Rhode Island and enjoyed it.”

At age 64, Chartrand said she wants to wind down on daily cooking and focus on kitchen operations. She also wants to expand the horizons of the culinary program’s clients, most of whom produce cookies and are paid by the piece.

“We do have clients who have performed really well, and two of them are now hourly employees who work in the kitchen,” she said. “The goal is we really want more of that.”

To that end, she’s written a curriculum with direct-care staffer Don Quill and is doing a training program with existing clients to evaluate their capabilities.

“We think they can do a lot more,” she said.

A major area of client interest is the plot established by a master gardener, where melons, peppers, strawberries, tomatoes and herbs are grown.

The campus also has apple and plum trees. Chartrand related the story of a client who picked figs at home and brought in a big bagful, which she turned into a fig vinaigrette.

“They just loved it,” she said.

Review-Journal: Always in your fridge?

Cindy Chartrand: Berries.

Currently obsessed with?

“The Walking Dead”

Newest Las Vegas discovery?

BF (Blue Fin) Sushi, 6375 S. Rainbow Blvd.

Favorite indulgence?

Pistachios

I never eat …

Lima beans

Favorite brunch at home?

French toast with country potatoes, sausage and berries, of course. I have to have my berries.

Best tip for home cooks?

Learn your time management.

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at Hrinella@reviewjournal.com. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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