Foster Kids and Chefs Cook Up Magic for California Youth Connection 25th Anniversary

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Culinary Inspirations, a fundraiser for the California Youth Connection, teams renowned local chefs who have volunteered their time with a current or former foster youth to create a unique tasting experience for attendees. The event will be held on October 16, 2013, at San Francisco's The Old Mint Building.

It might be Jerk Chicken with Mac & Cheese to us, but for former Foster Child Kahmaria Holleman, her tasty collaboration with local chef Arlene Hylton is “just desserts.”

Kahmaria’s and Hylton’s dish will be one of 17 at Culinary Inspirations, a fundraiser for the California Youth Connection (CYC), the first organization to give foster youth a voice in the legislative process on laws regarding foster care. CYC celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Now in its 4th year, Culinary Inspirations teams renowned local chefs, who have volunteered their time, with a current or former foster youth to create a unique tasting experience for event attendees. Funds raised at the event are used to enable foster youth to advocate state and local legislators on issues surrounding foster care and child welfare.

For Kahmaria, a student at Sacramento City College, the experience of working with Hylton will allow her to give back to an organization that’s given so much to her, as well as a chance to get back to her roots.

“I was taken away from my mom at birth and lived with many family members, but wasn’t ever put in legal guardianship with a foster parent until my 15th birthday. I didn’t understand it. But once that happened, I finally felt like I was loved, and wanted. I felt like was part of a real family,” She said.

Soon after, she learned of CYC and joined the organization.

“I found a place I loved. I never wanted to leave. I had friends who understood me. Were like me. Shared my problems and issues. I wasn’t alone. They became my second family. And we were able to work together on our issues to make our lives better,” she said.

Kahmaria will also get an education on her heritage. “I’m half-Jamaican, and when I found out Arlene was born and raised there, I knew this was a perfect match,” she said. “I begged her to do something that was about our shared country.”

Hylton, who works for the San Francisco Dept. of Human Services, also runs her own catering business, Jamaican West Services. It’s her third year teaming up with a CYC Foster Child, but her roots go much deeper with the organization.

She came to San Francisco on vacation 26 years ago, and stayed with a friend who was a social worker who had friends that owned a group home for foster teens. “I got hooked. I saw the promise in these kids. That things could get better. I saw hope in them, where many saw hopelessness,” said Hylton.

It was at that moment she decided to stay in San Francisco and dedicate herself to helping foster kids. Not long after that decision, she along with others from around the State, became part of the founding members of CYC 25 years ago.

Hylton is eagerly anticipating working with Kahmaria on their dish for the 25th anniversary event.

“Our collaboration is going to be about our shared heritage. So we talked about Curry Mutton, our national dish, but that’s not for everyone. Instead we are going to do something traditional, but more familiar -- Jerk Chicken. It will be spicy just like our island. With some mac & cheese on the side, that’s the sunlight. This won’t be your typical macaroni dish -- we add a little Jamaican magic to it,” she said.

Magic, indeed.

Tickets for the 2013 Culinary Inspirations on Oct 16th at The Old Mint building in San Francisco can be purchased at http://culinaryinspirations2013.eventbrite.com/.

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Jacque Lindemann
California Youth Connection
(415) 442-5060 12
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