A new cook is stirring the pots at Our Place Drop-in Center with the hiring of Matthew Gowell to prepare the daily lunch.
A native of Keene, NH, Gowell comes to the job as a self-taught foodie who began as a dish washer and worked his way up, eventually taking over the kitchen. His 15 years of experience include stints at two restaurants in Keene, 176 Main and 21 Roxbury.
He describes his cooking technique as "taking what I have and making it into something." Gowell's "winging it" talent is handy at Our Place, whose menu is often based on donated items. A recent lunch featured cabbage donated by a local gardener stuffed with a creamy, vegetable-laced risotto. Another day it was free-range steaks donated by Albert's Organics in Brattleboro.
"We never know what's going to come through the door," said OP Director Susan Shea, "so it's important our cook be flexible."
Other recent offerings have included veggie burritos, lasagna, shepherd's pie, herb-encrusted pork loin and French bread pizza. Although he himself is a vegetarian, Gowell says he cooks all kinds of food. Salad, bread, fruit and dessert are served with each meal.
Asked why he chose to work at Our Place, Gowell said he wasn't happy in his last job.
"I wanted a job I'd like. I wanted to be proud of where I work and the people I work with," he said.
When not in front of the stove, Gowell lives in Alstead, NH, with his wife Yancy and young son Grady. His hobbies include gardening, biking and foraging for wild mushrooms. He said patrons of Our Place can feel safe that he'd never introduce any wild mushrooms to his menu there.
Lunch is served at Our Place every weekday except Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and the public is invited.
"Everybody is welcome to come in for a great meal," said Shea.