Heroes Catering: Mission Accomplished

Bread of Life caters to a different demographic than FareStart.

Attracting name chefs to design its rotating guest menu and finding its clients gigs on the lines of trendy local restaurants, FareStart understandably gets recognized as the cream of a slim local crop of programs that train the homeless for culinary careers. But it's not the only such kitchen in town: With far less fanfare, Pioneer Square's Bread of Life Mission has since 2003 operated a similar program, Heroes Catering, albeit one which sports a far bluer collar than that of its uptown peer.

Whereas FareStart trainees learn to cook hot entrées fit for a romantic supper, Heroes specializes in box lunches and business catering. Of the 50 men who've completed the program, many go on to jobs at places like Denny's and Jack in the Box, not Tavolata or Lecosho. Regular corporate clients include Microsoft and the Christian charity World Vision, on whose Federal Way campus Heroes operates a self-standing cafe.

"I have lots of options at lunch," says World Vision employee John Yeager, pointing to the plethora of nearby strip-mall competition the cafe faces in the South County suburb. "But I like knowing I can support Bread of Life when I buy a sandwich or bowl of chili."

Heroes shares a kitchen with the Mission, which serves three meals a day, sleeps 120 men per night, and operates a day shelter, complete with two computer labs and donated coffee and pastries from Starbucks. Bread of Life also offers a weekly "Mission Mart," where needy patrons can pick up free clothing. But its biggest endeavor is an annual Memorial Day service and barbecue honoring homeless veterans, where more than 2,300 people are fed, according to the Mission's operations director, Thomas Molina, who with his high-pitched voice and shaved head could pass for a Latino Mr. Clean after a breath of fresh helium. What's more, Seahawk running back Justin Forsett dropped by last month to serve food and donate prototypes of a washcloth-sized shower substitute he's just begun selling at places like Green Lake's Super Jock 'n' Jill and West Seattle Runner.

While it offers salads (the chicken Caesar is excellent) and a variety of deli platters for larger groups, Heroes' bread and butter, quite literally, is its boxed-lunch menu. Here, turkey, ham, and roast-beef sandwiches on thick rolls are accompanied by a bag of chips, a fruit cup, a cookie, and a small bottle of water. They're not cheap ($12.99), but they are tasty and filling. Fulfilling, too, when you consider that most of your bill is going to assist an aspiring food-service worker who wants nothing more than a chance at self-sufficiency.


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