MJER Help has arrived at KITCHEN COUNCIL!

(MJER) Help Has Arrived by Ashley Rae Turner

OCT 25, 2018 | WE GROW

We’ve all been there. A busy day of work, meetings, errands and other obligations. Finally, you get home exhausted with one more thing on your list. Cooking dinner. Other options – you could microwave a frozen meal or maybe reach for some crackers and hummus – but the most healthy thing to do is cook and that requires you to invest at least an hour more of your time … until recently. With the advent of meal services like Blue Apron you could reduce your cooking time, or you could enlist MJER Help to save all your time and do the hard work for you.

MJER Help owners, Michelle J. Elson-Roza and Anthony Roza, went to the same high school (Omaha Burke) and later began dating when they both lived in Chicago. While many new couples come together to plan vacations and outings with friends, Michelle and Anthony had a bigger dream — to work together and own a business. They wanted to combine their love of sustainable food practices, quality guest services, healthy living, and fresh vegetables, but neither knew the perfect avenue for their vision just yet. Michelle worked in the finance industry and her soon-to-be husband had worked in hospitality his entire career, starting as a line cook and server in Omaha’s Old Market and working his way up to restaurant and hotel management.

After getting engaged and deciding to get married in Omaha, they looked for a caterer and venue that was excited about farm-to-table that could provide both vegetarian and vegan options, a task that proved more difficult than they imagined. With Omaha growing and developing a more sophisticated food scene, they saw an opportunity to respond to the same needs they had as busy professionals and when scouting for wedding vendors. After spending 10+ years in the financial industry, Michelle took a leap of faith and applied to culinary school, a long-time dream of hers that came from her love of food and bringing people together.

We love planning and executing the best parties you’ve ever thrown in the your home.  And we clean up, too, so there’s no mess the following day!

A few months before starting culinary school, a last minute work trip set the course for MJER Help. Michelle prepped meals for her sister, a small business owner, whose husband would be gone for a conference. Without this help, her sister realized they would have been eating takeout for days. Michelle experienced firsthand just how stressed today’s working professionals are and that the first thing they sacrifice is healthy eating and home cooking. She saw a real need to have healthy food options for both families and professionals who want to balance life and work, but couldn’t afford a full-time personal chef.

While in school, MJER (co-owner, Michelle J. Elson-Roza’s initials) Help quickly expanded from customized meal prep to include event planning and corporate lunches for local startups in Chicago. After Michelle graduated from Kendall College, the culinary duo moved back home to Omaha (around the same time No More Empty Pots (NMEP) and Kitchen Council were launching) to focus on the MJER Help brand. Knowing the shared kitchen model was perfect for them (they are not interested in owning a restaurant, but eventually would love to have a farm to be a event venue), they expanded their business and became one of the first tenants at NMEP.

After further development of their business model to focus more on the highly personalized, weekly chef services and with the addition of new staff members and more partnerships with local brands (this Thanksgiving they will be providing locally sourced turkeys and sides alongside baked goods from Farine + Four and desserts from The Confectionist for purchase) it was time for a bigger space and greater flexibility. It was time to join Kitchen Council. MJER Help is now much more than just a meal prep service. They focus on offering just the right culinary service solution to individuals and are always looking for ways to provide more benefits to their clients (like adding a dietician to their staff in the future). The membership benefits at Kitchen Council – from 24/7 kitchen access to marketing and outreach resources to expert council in other business areas – all support MJER Help’s overall vision for their business.

You shouldn’t have to sacrifice you health to be a successful professional.  We understand the hectic schedules of busy professionals and families and our primary goal is to alleviate stress from your lives so you can spend more time excelling at work, taking care of yourself, and most importantly, having additional time to spend with your family and friends!

Photographs courtesy of Anthony Roza and Clare Watson Bartolomei 

FULL ARTICLE CAN BE FOUND on the KITCHEN COUNCIL WEBSITE

NMEP - A Tale of Two Kitchens - Omaha Gives! 2018

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Dari Henderson, current founder and head chef of Butter’s Sweet Treats, has always had a fascination with baking. Dari was Inspired by her memories of being a little girl baking in the kitchen with her grandmother. She decided to join the Culinary Workforce Training Program (CWTP) to share that same joy bringing homemade treats to children. Part of the inaugural cohort of the CWTP, housed in the No More Empty Pots Collaborative Community Centered Food Hub, Dari networked with happenings in the next kitchen over, only a dishroom away, to land her first gig as a sous-chef.

Michelle Elson-Roza, founder, and owner of MJERHelp was the first to enter and lease the Food Hub’s shared commercial kitchen space as a local food entrepreneur. She was located in the next kitchen over from CWTP and Dari's work caught her attention. Often Michelle would wander into the training kitchen to observe the students’ progress. She found herself drawn to Dari due to her zeal and eagerness to learn how to cook and eventually offered her a position within her team as the holidays approached. Over time, Dari provided support to Michelle in her catering gigs, which exposed her to the inner workings of a small food business. Thanks to daily culinary training, hours of knife work and on the job experience in the kitchens, Dari’s skills were honed and sharpened in preparation for a true feat of baking: 5,000 individually packaged treats.

Working together, Michelle and Dari fulfilled the massive order for healthy holiday treats in just one weeks’ time. MJERHelp provided three cookie recipes (Hopi Blue Corn and Lemon, Organic Rolled Oat Cookie, Pumpkin Snickerdoodle), while Dari provided one, a Pumpkin Oatmeal Bite. This was the first recipe and item sold under Dari’s new business, Butter’s Sweet Treats. Shipping had to be timed just right as the cookies had no preservative and were made of primarily locally sourced ingredients. After a test shipment to herself, Dari adjusted the recipe to ensure maximum tastiness upon delivery. 

This whirlwind experience led to a sense of pride in accomplishing something that seemed impossible given the time frame and the required freshness of product. Both Dari and Michelle were happy to have made a new connection with a major corporation in hopes of building new clientele to order local food from their businesses.

The week ended on a high note for both Michelle and Dari. MJERHelp went on to win the Wells Fargo Entrepreneurship Invitational for 2017, taking home $1,500 in seed money. Dari graduated from the CWTP in December and has since returned to work for No More Empty Pots as a Lead Production Assistant while continuing to create and promote Butter’s Sweet Treats through the shared-use kitchen.

Make Great Things Happen!

You Can Make Great Things Happen!

May 23, 2018!


Omaha Gives! is a 24-hour, online giving event where your donations fuel programs in the community. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to apply towards the NMEP Culinary Workforce Training Program. Meeting this goal supports the needs of one full cohort of eight participants!

MJER Help Wins No More Empty Pots Entrepreneurship Invitational (sponsored by Wells Fargo) in December!

From No More Empty Pots Article:

Entrepreneurship Invitational Supported by Wells Fargo

The audience was full while the three finalists of the Entrepreneurship Invitational presented their final pitches to earn seed money for their business. Before the winners were announced, Velma Mackey, the 2016 1st place winner moved the crowd with an inspiring speech on the endless possibilities that stem from participating in the competition. After deliberation, Wells Fargo announced Michelle Elson-Roza as the 1st place winner for her business MJERHelp, taking home $1,500 in seed money. Jared Uecker and Samuel Anez also received cash prizes, $750 and $250 respectively, for their outstanding business pitches. We can hardly wait to see their businesses grow!

OKRA HASH WITH "SMASHED" POTATOES AND EGGS

Last week, Tracey from Fork N Farm gave me a positive challenge to create a recipe using okra from her urban farm in Benson.  It is not an ingredient I cook with regularly, and to be honest, it kind of freaks me out!  I typically associate okra with being slimy, which is not a word I like to associate with my cooking.  And my most vivid memory of eating it involves a childhood tennis coach dragging us to an all-you-can-eat buffet on the drive to a tournament so he could get his Southern fix for the vegetable. 

Needless to say, I was ecstatic when this recipe for Okra Hash with "Smashed" Potatoes and Eggs turned out absolutely delicious!  It is a great recipe for Sunday brunch or "breakfast for dinner!"  It combines the classic Southern ingredient with Indian spices, and is both incredibly delicious and nutritious.

Okra contains potassium, vitamin B, vitamin C, folic acid, and calcium. It's low in calories and has a high dietary fiber content. Recently, a new benefit of including okra in your diet is being considered. Okra has been suggested to help manage blood sugar in cases of type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.  The recipe also contains tumeric, which is a highly effective nutritional supplement for your body and brain.  Curcumin is the main active ingredient in turmeric. It has powerful anti-inflammatory effects and is a very strong antioxidant.

The recipe was created with ingredients the farmers will be selling at the Rockbrook Organic Farmers market this week.  I can't say enough about the quality of the products these producers sell.  The quality of Fork N Farms eggs is incredible, and everything the ladies from Iowana Farms and Blooms Organic grow is beautiful and delicious.  MJER Help will be doing a pop-up again to celebrate the last market of the season, so we hope to see you there!

*Okra and eggs from Fork N Farm

*Kennebec potatoes from Iowana Farm

*Onion from Blooms Organic

RECIPE: OKRA HASH WITH "SMASHED" POTATOES AND EGGS

ROCKBROOK ORGANIC FARMERS MARKET POP-UP RECIPES!

Last week, MJER Help handed out samples at the Rockbrook Organic Farmers Market in Omaha that showcased the farmer's organic produce. We made zucchini and leek soup with mint oil, cauliflower tabbouleh, and tahini nutella with bread for the kids. We handed out copies of the recipes to create at home with the produce, but now you have them here, too!  Just click on the name of the recipe!

Zucchini and Leek Soup

Zucchini from Blooms Organic, Fork N Farm, Iowana Farm

Garlic from Iowana Farm

Onions from Fork N Farm

Cauliflower Tabbouleh

Cauliflower from Blooms Organic

Garlic from Iowana Farm

Cucumber from Fork N Farm

Parsley from Fork N Farm

Spearmint from Iowana Farm

Tahini Nutella with Bread

Bread from Great Harvest Bread Company

 

No More Empty Pots article highlighting MJER Help!

Shared Use Kitchen Serves First Tenants

by Nancy Williams 

The kitchens served its first tenants at the Collaborative Community Centered Food Hub in April. Michelle and Tony of MJER Help rented the first hours in the kitchen to cater a birthday party. The smells were wonderful – bacon and cupcakes wafting through the hallways! The next week, Velma of Suzan’s Sweet Potato Pie, LLC prepared pound cakes, apple pies and sweet potato pies to provide Easter treats for customers. From scratch apple pies with juicy Granny Smith apples, pound cakes with literally pounds of butter and cream cheese and sweet potato pies with a flaky crust and just the right amount of spice graced the racks in the kitchen. We are thrilled to support food focused entrepreneurship.

More good news! As Michelle and Tony were preparing for their birthday catering, they met Chef Brian O’Malley of Metropolitan Community College’s Institute for the Culinary Arts, who was graciously sharing his time and expertise interviewing kitchen manager candidates with us. The next week Chef O’Malley received an email about a healthy food catering opportunity at University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and shared it with MJER Help who decided to audition with a tasting. You can guess what happened next – they got the gig! With only a week to prepare, they developed a menu, sourced food and providers, booked kitchen time, hired some help and went to work to provide two meals per day for 50 people for almost a week. No More Empty Cups was excited to provide coffee (Archetype roasted beans), tea (Tea Smith), and organic herb infused water for each meal.

On MJER Help’s first day of service to UNMC, our neighbor to the north of the food hub kitchens, Mouth of the South, experienced a devastating fire. We are grateful that there were no casualties or injuries. You can read more here. After regrouping, MJER Help finished the week strong with exemplary service to their clients.

In April, nearly 10 new tenants completed the paperwork and paid deposits to rent the kitchens over the next few months. Another five are expected to enroll in May. We are so excited for them and our community. We can hardly wait to introduce you to the super talented providers who will deliver technical assistance to our entrepreneurs as they start and grow their businesses. Check the blog and Facebook for updates.

 

http://www.nmepomaha.org/shared-use-kitchen-serves-first-tenants/

Kathy Gadalinski joins MJER Help!

Kathy Gadalinski joins MJER Help!

We are excited to announce a new addition to our MJER Help team!  Kathy Gadalinski is our friend from culinary school at Kendall College.  She is an amazing chef and we are over the moon to have her on our team!  

Kathy's biography:

Kathy and Michelle met on the first day of culinary school and were cooking partners for three quarters.  We are excited to have her on the MJER Help team! 

Kathy Gadalinski is a June 2016 graduate of the Kendall College Accelerated Associates of Culinary Arts Program. Prior to pursuing her culinary degree Kathy worked professionally as a social worker in the city of Chicago for over 16 years. Her service oriented background, tenacity, and teachable spirit coupled with a passion for the culinary arts make Kathy an asset to any organization.

Kathy has the ability to work quickly and effectively both independently and as part of a team. She is regarded by her instructors and peers as organized, dependable and hard working as she posses the ability to make smart decisions in fast paced environments. 

Kathy is eager to learn and is excited to create. Her training has provided the skills, knowledge and confidence for advancement in the culinary world. She completed her internship at Spiaggia, an upscale Italian Restaurant in downtown Chicago, and is now inspired by the opportunity with MJER Help.

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