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Collaborative chef is chili champ

Submitted by on 1, February 7, 2011 – 12:02 am4 Comments

Roslyn Turner and her daughter, Justine Turner, in the Alameda Point Collaborative kitchen.

Justine Turner is a fan of her mom Roslyn’s cooking. But she’s not the only one.

“Everything she makes is always a hit,” Turner, 20, said of her mother, who works as Alameda Point Collaborative’s kitchen coordinator.

One recipe of Turner’s – her Atomic Poppin’ Chili recipe, to be exact – scored first place at the Alameda Kiwanis’ annual chili cook-off on January 29. The winning team included Turner; her daughter, Justine; and Jotice Wallace, a Collaborative resident who’s getting on-the-job training in the kitchen.

The win was the Turner’s first and the latest in a string of successes for her and her family, whose drive to overcome their struggles put an inspirational spin on what has been an all-too-familiar American tale.

Turner and her family moved back to her husband’s native Bay Area five years ago, after he retired from the U.S. Army. The couple and their five children lived in a five-bedroom home in Pittsburg until Turner’s husband lost his job, and the family lost their home to foreclosure.

“I was in a funk for three months,” the upbeat Turner said. But her kids, she said, never complained.

The family was ready to move into a homeless shelter when staffers at a VA hospital told Turner’s husband about Operation Dignity, which provides housing for military veterans and their families. So they came here to Alameda.

Turner then learned about the Collaborative and its on-the-job training program, and she was brought in to train in its brand-new community kitchen. Six months later, Turner had a new job, as kitchen coordinator.

“Our criteria was more around having someone who could just make sure the kitchen ran smoothly, and we weren’t really focused on making sure the person could cook well,” Alameda Point Collaborative’s executive director, Doug Biggs, said. “But it just so happened that Roslyn is an amazing cook!”

Soul food and Italian are favorites of Turner’s, though daughter Justine said she makes a mean beef stir fry with a mix of vegetables and “loads of steak.”

In addition to providing training and helping out with cooking classes, Turner provides food for the Collaborative’s internal events and for a breakfast each Wednesday that’s open to the community.

“The bus drivers from AC Transit, they come and eat,” Turner said.

Biggs said Turner earned the right to compete in the Kiwanis’ cook-off through her role as the Collaborative’s kitchen coordinator. He said he had a brief conversation with her about the competition “and then got out of the way.” The recipe, Turner said, is confidential.

“It has a couple of surprises in it. A couple little secrets in it,” she said.

After about a year with Operation Dignity, Turner’s family was able to get back on their feet and purchase a new home in Oakland. And Turner, who will be a judge in the Collaborative’s own chili contest on February 28, said she’s grateful for the help it has provided.

“(Alameda Point Collaborative) has opened so many doors, not only for me and for my family,” Turner said. “If you use the program, it works.”


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