Gourmet Guy

Agency Partner: Judge Riddel Boys Ranch 

Funding: $16,500 

Committee members: 6 

Summary: Providing teaching kitchen. JLW will Assist with life skills training for at risk boys and will compile simple cookbook with basic recipes, etiquette, food safety and measurement information. 

The Gourmet Guy Project embraces Junior League of Wichita’s Mission, and also President Stephanie Brock’s message for the year: “Opportunities for Change.” This project is different from other JLW projects because it serves at-risk young men at the Judge Riddel’s Boys Ranch. As noted on the brochure for the Ranch, its Mission is about “Making Second Chances Count.” 

These young men, ages 15-18, have made some mistakes in their lives, but as the JLW members involved with the project found, these are good kids trying to turn their lives around. The connection between healthy self-esteem and success is well documented, as are the debilitating consequences of low self-esteem. 

As Nelson Boswell said: “The first and most important step toward success is the feeling that we can succeed.” 

JLW wanted to do something to help. 

JRBR approached JLW’s Project Development team looking for help with the Ranch’s independent life skills cooking classes. 

The Ranch certainly came to the right group, as JLW knows cooking and cookbooks. The project grew in scope to include the construction of a new kitchen and the production of a cookbook. 

JLW member Louise Holden worked with Key Construction to build a beautiful teaching kitchen. Key Construction’s financial underwriting allowed JLW to build a kitchen that far exceeded the Ranch’s expectations. Under JLW member Denise Bandemer’s leadership, and in partnership with Above and Beyond, the committee created a cookbook with simple recipes, tips for basic etiquette and general kitchen know-how. 

The heart of the Project was the series of cooking classes that the committee conducted. Pairs of volunteers worked with groups of four boys for six class sessions of cooking and dining together. Each session culminated in a special meal to which each boy could invite a guest: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, March Madness and Mother’s Day. 

The time spent at the dinner table, talking and listening to the boys, proved to be the highlight of the Program. It was in that setting that the boys relaxed and enjoyed a mealtime ritual that seemed refreshing and restorative to them. Sharing the meal and enjoying the undivided attention of the volunteers seemed to work like a tonic on the boys’ self-esteem. 

In the end, for the volunteers, the gift they received was expressed in the boys’ comments about the program: one noted “Now I can cook for myself and not have to depend on fast food or someone else.” 

Another shared that the class was “the best thing that happened” to him in his life. Amazing as this sounds, many of these young men have difficult home situations, some with no family. Hopefully, for these young men, the concentrated dose of attention from a group of volunteers who were willing to come to the Ranch, to teach them, to listen to them and to show them caring attention and empathy laid the foundation for a burgeoning self-esteem. 

It was an honor to be a part of this project working with a wonderful committee and getting to know some great kids. It truly was an Opportunity for Change: for each of the committee members, for JLW as a whole, and for these young men who are a part of the Wichita community. 

In the end, the project reflected the wisdom expressed in the following quote: “The greatest good you can do for another is not just to share your riches but to reveal to him his own.” ~Benjamin Disraeli 

Scenes of the space at the Judge Riddel Boys Ranch before and during renovation. The area will be used for the Gourmet Guy project.
Continuing renovation of the kitchen space at Judge Riddel Boys Ranch.
Completed kitchen for the Gourmet Guy project, thanks to Jeff Cody and Key Construction. The project will teach kitchen basics and cooking to the boys at the ranch.
Gourmet Guy participants cooked up a delicious holiday meal for family.
JLW Member Louise Holden keeps busy in the kitchen with two Gourmet Guy participatns as they learn how to make many holiday favorite recipes from scratch.

Junior League of Wichita

6402 East 12th Street
Wichita, Kansas 67206-1306
Phone: 316.682.7473