Conscientious Cook: First Slice

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First Slice is a community restaurant and kitchen in Chicago that offers a fascinating approach to gourmet takeout and feeding the hungry. It's a self-funding charity that offers shareholder subscriptions for three gourmet family-sized meals a week, and with that income they provide delicious, wholesome meals for some of Chicago's neediest families. We are very inspired by their mission: give the first slice of the pie to those who are used to living on crusts. Mary Ellen Diaz, the owner and chef, was trained at Le Cordon Bleu and cooked for high-end restaurants before following her dreams to open First Slice. She brings all her craft and expertise to it, and is proud of the fact that she works with the same vendors as at her previous hundred-thousand dollar executive chef position.

Many food programs offer, by necessity, only leftovers and canned goods - the back of the pantry. This program confers dignity and pleasure on those who are in the greatest need by serving meals with the same high-quality food that is offered through their cafe and subscription program.

Food can be a point of connection and hospitality between our tables and those who are in need, those who are strange or foreign to us. First Slice is working to do this - they also offer volunteer opportunities and a summer program that works with local farmers to educate about seasonal and local produce. They always accept donations to serve even more homeless and needy people.

Be sure to read some of their stories. And if you live in Chicago, check out the subscription program, or visit their cozy cafe.

• Read Chicagoist article on First Slice

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.

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