Restaurant Impossible - St James Soup Kitchen - OPEN

St James Soup Kitchen Restaurant Impossible

In this Restaurant Impossible episode, Chef Robert Irvine visits St. James soup kitchen in Newark, New Jersey.

St. James Soup Kitchen is an arm of the St. James' social service corps, an Outreach Ministry ran by executive director Vesta Godwin Clark.

The soup kitchen is one of the largest providers of food in the city and the surrounding community.

The soup kitchen serves around 150 people daily, who are mostly homeless but no one is turned away.

Six months ago, a fire caused significant damage to the building.

Most of the kitchen equipment was damaged and as a result they struggled to keep up with demand.

The dining area needs a facelift, new stoves are needed to replace the old ones and refrigerators are required to store produce.

Robert arrives and meets Vesta to talk about the building and the fire damage.

He asked if there are other soup kitchens elsewhere and Vesta tells him that most have closed down due to a lack of funding.

Georgianna Loney-Wilson, the 80 year old volunteer chef who runs the kitchen, volunteers five days a week at the soup kitchen.

She was so excited to meet Chef Robert, who also thinks she must be a miracle worker continuing to volunteer at that age.

Chef Robert noticed Georgianna plastered left arm, an injury sustained while working.

She slipped and hurt her arm whilst trying to stop herself from falling and Robert was stunned that she continues to volunteer despite the injury.

Georgianna has been with St. James soup kitchen since the beginning. Her goal is to treat every client as though they are dining with family and offer a homely and balanced meal and are treated with dignity and respect.

The clients keep coming in as long as they notice Georgianna's car is parked out the front. She keeps doing it day in and day out because she feels God has led her to do so.

St James kitchen has one small Fryer, two ovens including one that is damaged and other outdated equipment.

The lack of functioning equipment is making things ten times harder from them to prepare meals.

Georgianna needs a kitchen that she can use to feed people quickly and efficiently, which Chef Roberts promises he will get for her.

In years of fixing failing restaurants, Robert confesses he hasn't walked into this kind of situation and hasn't tackled a more deserving location.

Robert's first task to help revamp the soup kitchen was meet with designer Nicole Facciuto and show her the dining room.

Tom and Nicole meet with Robert, who wants to spend $7,000 of the budget on the kitchen.

They all agree it is a going to be a challenging task but Robert believes it's achievable in time and on budget.

Tom tells Robert that he knows a kitchen equipment guy in town who they could talk to for a good deal in replacing the kitchen equipment.

They both meet Bob Finkelstein at BFA Designs and he gives them great discounts on kitchen equipment for the soup kitchen. He also gives them a fryer for free.

The kitchen equipment arrives and is offloaded from the company's truck. However Tom notices that the oven wouldn't fit through the doors to the soup kitchen.

Roberts picks up a long sledgehammer and breaks through the door.

The equipment is taken into the dining room whilst Tom works on replacing the damaged floor in the kitchen.

It's going to be a long night as the fire upstairs has caused a lot of water downstairs, which has ruined all the plywood and badly damaged the kitchen floor.

Nicole is taking some photographs of staff for frames that will go on the wall.

Renovating the kitchen is a vast project which would usually take months of planning and organizing. But they get the kitchen organized and fitted in just one day.

False ceilings were fitted to hide the remnants of fire damage and this is worked on.

The next day Robert meets Tom and Nicole and sees the work they have completed so far. The dining room has been repainted, the kitchen floor fixed and equipment has been installed.

Robert cleans the equipment and Vesta reveals a surprise. Newark’s Mayor Cory A. Booker comes the soup kitchen to meet Robert and Vesta.

He is given a tour of the soup kitchen and is stunned by what they have done in such a short time.

In the spirit of thanksgiving, Cory presented Chef Robert with a new challenge to serve an additional 150 people from a local community centre.

The kitchen is complete and Vesta and Ms. Georgianna were led with their eyes closed to the kitchen.

They are astounded by the makeover and the new equipment in the kitchen. The Kitchen now boasts a boiler, a double fryer, a 5-foot freezer, two refrigerators and a large storage area.

Vesta and Georgianna were given a day off for their hard work while two of Robert's friends stepped in to help with the makeover.

George Galati and Lee Lucier help Robert to prepare for feeding the community.

At 12: 05 pm, Robert and George dash down to the community food bank while Lee stayed behind to start prepping.

They visit a community food back but are limited to how much food they are able to take. Robert calls Lee to get other items from a nearby grocery store.

With all hands on deck they are able to cook and package 150 individual meals to take to the Community Centre.

They race to finish the dining room ready for seating and feeding 150 people at the soup kitchen.

They rush to set the tables and Vests and Georgianna believe the dining room looks beautiful.

As the budget was just $3000, they have recycling second hand chairs with a new paint job. There are staff photos on the wall.

The hungry diners are let into the soup kitchen and are overwhelmed with the new dining room and are all fed a hot meal.


What Happened Next at St James Soup Kitchen?

Thanksgiving dinner was served to the homeless and the homeless continue to be fed at the soup kitchen.

The soup kitchen was renamed to the The Soulfood Cafe Soup Kitchen.

Georgianna Loney-Wilson sadly passed away in March 2018.

Please consider donating to the soup kitchen here so they can continue helping the homeless.

St James Soup Kitchen was Restaurant Impossible season 2 episode 15 and aired on November 23 2011.

Click for more Restaurant Impossible Restaurants

Previous episode - Coffee's Boilin' Pot

Next episode - Wildcat Café

This post was last updated in February 2020.


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