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The Peace Corps for Cooks: Volunteer Travel With the Culinary Corps

New Orleans Travel
by Julie Schwietert May 13, 2008
Opportunity: Short-term volunteer travel projects in New Orleans

Organization Overview:

“My elevator speech is ‘Culinary Corps is the Peace Corps for cooks,’ says founder and director Christine Carroll. Carroll, a professional chef, founded Culinary Corps in 2006 after attending a conference in New Orleans and identifying a gap in the existing volunteer services.

Carroll has a long history of volunteer experience. When she was 18, she worked in Alaska as a member of the AmeriCorps VISTA Program. “I had few applicable skills as a college student,” she says, “but now, as a seasoned cook, I do. Unfortunately, culinary professionals are not tapped for immersion volunteer projects as often as they could be. I wanted to provide opportunities for cooks to use their talents to make a difference.”

The result is Culinary Corps, which designs, organizes, and facilitates volunteer experiences for skilled culinary students and chefs.

Opportunity Overview:

Currently, Culinary Corps’ efforts are focused on providing services in New Orleans, and the next trip is scheduled for June 1-6, 2008. Volunteers pay their travel expenses to and from New Orleans in addition to a nominal fee that covers on-the-ground expenses (housing, meals, and ground transportation).

The trip is an intense, active, hands-on experience in which participants prepare meals for volunteers and community members, as well as coordinate food-related events with community partners (past events have included food field days for local schools and a fundraising brunch for a community-supported agriculture program). The emphasis of every project is respecting the local culture’s culinary traditions, creating sustainable connections between volunteers and community members, and supporting rebuilding efforts through collaboration and “culanthropy.”

Ideal Volunteer Profile:

-21+ years of age

-Advanced cooking skills, with professional cooking experience preferred

-Hard-working, collaborative, spirited, patient, sensitive, responsible, flexible, and invested in the organization’s core values

Expectations of Volunteers:

Volunteers are expected to work together as a diverse team to fulfill each day’s cooking tasks, as well as participate in all planned activities with community hosts and partners.

Bonus Points for Culinary Corps!

-Lodging is provided by Xavier University, a historically black university with the ultimate purpose of promoting a more just and humane society.

-Each trip involves hands-on learning experiences for participants. Culinary Corps provides a pre-trip package with resources about local food and local culture, and organizes events that bring participants into direct contact with both. Past events have included a tour of the Crescent City Farmer’s Market and meals with the curator from The Southern Food and Beverage Museum.

-Culinary Corps is currently planning expansion of its volunteer activities to include a service trip to Nicaragua in November, 2008.


For full details about Culinary Corps and to download an application and instructions, please visit (The application for the June 2008 trip will be available March 1).

Feel Good Story:

Angela Sagabaen relocated to New Orleans after her March 2007 trip with Culinary Corps, and is now working as a test kitchen chef at Emeril’s Homebase. She reflects upon her experiences: “I did my deed and felt good about my volunteering efforts, which I hadn’t felt in a long time working with other organizations or in restaurants. I worked hard and got little sleep, but I also laughed and played hard. And in the end, I think that is the point of [CulinaryCorps]…to not only help your fellow man, but to create warm and meaningful relationships during the process that not only makes another person’s world brighter, but yours as well.”

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