A decade ago, Molly Mitchell opened Rose’s Fine Food on Detroit’s east side with a simple mission, “to provide from-scratch food with quality local ingredients to strengthen our community in Detroit.” The diner – selected by Bon Appetit as one of the top 50 restaurants in America – and renowned for paying a living wage and giving back to the community, quickly grew to become a favorite destination for Detroit foodies.
While she closed Rose’s last spring, Mitchell is staying true to her mission as the new Associate Director of Culinary Arts for the Downtown Boxing Gym (DBG) about a six-minute drive from the old Rose’s location. And she’s helping to break in DBG’s fully functional commercial kitchen with all the equipment needed to serve large scale meals.
“This is such an exciting opportunity for DBG and for me,” Mitchell says. “Running a restaurant is an amazing experience but at some point, I wanted to have more impact with my work. To work within a dynamic organization that has such a wide reach and to help kids, create a culinary curriculum, and engage local purveyors is a dream come true.”
Our free out-of-school time program serves students ages 8-18 with continued support to alumni through adulthood, providing transformative mentorship, individualized academic plans, transportation, nutritious meals, sports sampling, and a host of engaging electives – including cooking classes – which are among the most popular student activities. DBG’s measured success includes a 100% high school graduation rate since 2007, with 98% of graduates pursuing a postsecondary education.
Students help drive programming decisions, which is why we are working towards a closed-loop food system, raising chickens on-site, and growing fresh produce in a student-designed garden. The kids have even helped to keep honeybees and use a hydroponic system to grow vegetables indoors.
“We call our whole student wellness platform “Seeded at the Table,” explained Khali Sweeney, DBG’s founder and CEO. “Cooking and nutrition are essential for a healthy life. At DBG, we train kids for life, so understanding the best, most beneficial choices for your body and mind and knowing how to properly prepare food is a big part of that. But there’s even more – mealtime conversations improve vocabulary and communications skills and enable our students to share values and build community in important ways. This helps create life-long bonds. There are a lot of layers and levels to this part of the program. We’re excited to have Molly join our team.”
Mitchell is a graduate of Western Michigan University and French Pastry School. She worked at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Avalon International Breads in Detroit and Tartine Bakery in San Francisco before opening Rose’s Fine Food. She joins a dedicated team including DBG Health and Wellness manager, Shaquana Suggs, a DBG parent who was raised by a chef and runs her own catering business. Together, they will prepare fresh, from-scratch meals and snacks for hundreds of DBG students each night, more than 1,000 meals per week. Mitchell and the team are also building a new culinary arts curriculum for students, customized for various age groups.
“Food is fun. Gathering with friends and family and eating something delicious is just fun,” she says. “It’s also about community, health, understanding how to take care of yourself, autonomy, sustainability, the environment, knowing all the unique and special foods that can be grown where you live… cooking is a simple, everyday thing that has a huge impact.”
New Kitchen Completed
DBG has offered cooking classes since 2015 when the youth development program moved into its current 27,500 square foot facility on E. Vernor Highway. Initially, students learned about food and nutrition and meals were prepared in a kitchen donated by talk show host Rachael Ray.
But as the demand for DBG’s services grew and more and more students were added to the program, that kitchen needed to be moved to make room for expanded academic space. For a time, meal prep and cooking classes took place in a makeshift temporary kitchen while the new commercial kitchen was completed.
The brand-new state of the art kitchen was made possible thanks to generous support from the Walters Family Foundation, the Carls Foundation, Carhartt, Finish Line Foundation, Michigan Health Endowment Fund, and Virginia Tile.
“Students who are interested in culinary arts will be able to learn the skills they need to pursue their dream careers,” Mitchell said. “And those who don’t want to cook professionally will know what to do and which ingredients to use to make healthy meals at home. That’s an important skill that will last a lifetime.”