If you haven’t met Ishmael Gallegos yet, you probably haven’t stopped by the Veggielution kitchen on a Saturday workday. Once a chef who worked in restaurants throughout California, Ishmael can now be found at the farm every weekend, helping to prepare meals for the Saturday potlucks.
Ishmael’s appreciation for cooking started as a child. His mother taught him to cook while he was only 7, chopping and preparing the ingredients, while Ishmael would mix, stir and cook. As the oldest of 6 kids, he would often end up cooking for his brothers and sisters as well. At the age of 17, Ishmael entered the restaurant industry and began working in kitchens to make a living.
Ishmael first found out about Veggielution 2 years ago, after his daughter visited the farm with a local high school. When he noticed that no one was working in the kitchen Ishmael asked a volunteer at the farm stand if there was some way that he could help out. He started cooking, and people began to watch and ask questions. It didn’t take long until he began showing up every Saturday to cook in the kitchen.
Ishmael feels a deep sense of appreciation and satisfaction when cooking food that is grown here at the farm. Ishmael has taught many members of the Veggielution community different cooking skills, and always with a kindness and sense of humility that empowers the people he works with, “I never felt that people have limits,” he says. “I want to introduce people to eating healthy. I’m not teaching them, we’re working together.”
Over the last 2 years Ishmael has become somewhat of a fixture here at Veggielution, and is proud to help support the farm’s mission of providing access to healthy, local food, while also building community relationships. “The whole idea of Veggielution is to grow as friends and as a family.”
Cooking isn’t the only thing Ishmael does for Veggielution. Recently, he helped lead a Zumba exercise class at the farm, and he hopes to make it a monthly event. Also, as an accomplished artist and teacher, Ishmael hopes to bring more creative projects to the farm. “I’d like to teach a pottery class here,” he says. “I like helping people and I want to introduce people to the art of the world.” Just like with his cooking, Ishmael is constantly sharing his talents with others, and helping people to bring out their own creativity and develop new skills.
So how does Ishmael see his future with Veggielution? “Veggielution will be in my future until somebody kicks me out.” Well, don’t worry Ishmael, Veggielution is lucky to have such a wonderful person in our community, and we are proud to name you Volunteer of the Month!