Retired chef teams with Wilmington residents to feed families in need

Katharine Myhand working as executive chef at the Dram Yard.

Katharine Myhand working as executive chef at the Dram Yard.

Retired chef Annette Warner began making lasagna in her home kitchen two months ago, with the sole intention of giving them away.

Warner works with a small group of Wilmington volunteers, who range from experienced chefs to total newbies, for the nonprofit Lasagna Love, a grassroots movement designed to feed overburdened families.

Lasagna Love was created during the COVID-19 pandemic as a way to ease the stress of families struggling financially or emotionally. The nonprofit didn’t have a Wilmington chapter until Warner found a Facebook advertisement in search of “lasagna chefs.”

“It takes somebody with a special passion for food and showing love to people through food is my love language,” said Warner.

Images of lasagna baked for Lasagna Love.

Images of lasagna baked for Lasagna Love.

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Since starting the Lasagna Love Southeast NC Facebook group two months ago and kickstarting the Wilmington chapter of Lasagna love, Warner has accumulated almost 70 group members. She hopes to see this number steadily increase through the holidays.

“There’s a variety of different reasons people are asking for assistance and we don’t have or place any judgment on anyone,” said Warner. “If you’re just too tired to cook and want somebody else to bring you some food, that’s good enough reason.”

Warner added making meals to help families in need is a source of pride.

“We’re just proud to give them a lasagna because that’s just the ultimate Southern comfort food,” Warner said. “It’s just like a hug for the tummy.”

Retired chef Annette Warner

Retired chef Annette Warner

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Before retiring, Warner worked as a dietary staff for local nursing homes where she created home-cooked meals for residents.

“My real love and passion were working with the elderly and serving the infirm and making sure that they ate right,” Warner said. “I just had this belief that just because you’re in an institution doesn’t mean you have to eat like you’re in one.”

Although Lasagna Love accepts donations, most lasagna chefs cover the expenses out of their own pockets.

Katharine Myhand, another local volunteer and a retired executive chef from the Dram Yard restaurant downtown, has delivered between 13-14 meals since joining the group two months ago. Like the other lasagna chefs, Myhand makes all of the lasagnas in her home kitchen and purchases the ingredients.

Lasagnas baked by Katharine Myhand

Lasagnas baked by Katharine Myhand

Beyond volunteering to create and deliver hot meals to families in need, Myhand tries to engage volunteers as an admin of the Lasagna Love Southeast NC Facebook group.

“I think learning to cook is super important and I’m always looking at ways to showcase my personal skills and to help others figure out, what to do with those six noodles and this little bit of sauce,” Myhand said.

In addition to posting informational videos on the Facebook group, Myhand’s been using this volunteering experience to teach her son how to cook lasagna with her.

“I told my son you’re going to learn a few things through this opportunity,” Myhand said. “One, you’re going to learn how to shop and two you’re going to learn to cook sauce from scratch, make lasagna, and pay attention to dietary restrictions or nuances.”

Myhand's son making lasagna for Lasagna Love.

Myhand’s son making lasagna for Lasagna Love.

Together, Myhand and her son have baked and delivered meals to families in the area.

Tanya Thomas, one of the recipients of a fresh-baked lasagna from Lasagna Love, reached out to the group after a tragedy in her family.

“What I know is [Lasagna Love is] for families and families that are having a hard time and it’s also to pass on love,” said Thomas. “So they put their love into a lasagna.”

This article originally appeared on Wilmington StarNews: Retired chef and Wilmington volunteers are helping families in need

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