Maya Café Helps First Presbyterian Church Prepare Soup Kitchen Meal

Maya Cafe owner Luis Pinto (R rear) with staff and kids

Kids prepare meal for 100

(Submitted by First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown)

When the First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown’s Youth Mission agreed to make a chicken dinner for 100 people at the Salvation Army’s Soup Kitchen in Peekskill, they realized they may have bitten off more than they could chew, and turned to Luis Pinto, owner of Maya Café in Fishkill and Café Maya in Wappingers Falls for advice.

“Our congregation has a generous heart, so I knew we’d get enough donations”, said Youth Mission Coordinator Elise LaRocco.  And they did – they collected enough chickens for 120 people, potatoes and carrots for 300, salad fixings for 120 and cookies, brownies and home cooked rolls to serve an army.  However, as the date approached, LaRocco tried to work out the logistics of how to cook chicken for that many people.  “I can barely figure out meals for my family, never mind for 100!” she said.  Fortunately, she happened to have dinner at Maya Café, and was enjoying a chicken dinner when it occurred to her to ask for advice.  “I thought the owner, Luis, would know how to do this so I asked him simple questions like ‘When do I take the chickens out of the freezer?’ andHow many chickens can I cook in an oven at a time?’”

Pinto was very helpful, LaRocco said, until he asked how she was preparing the meal. “He’s such a sweet man but when I told him my recipe a look of horror came into his eyes. That’s when he kindly offered to cook the chicken for us.”

“As a chef, making delicious food for people is very important to me whether it’s for customers in my restaurants, family and friends in my home or people at a soup kitchen,” Pinto said.”

So while the church’s youth and adults prepared the roasted potatoes and carrots and salad, Pinto and his staff were making his restaurant’s signature dish pollo pibil. He also included plenty of his homemade salsa and chips. “The chicken was magical,” said First Presbyterian Youth Mission helper Linda Speziale. “The look on the diners’ faces when they ate was priceless. Luis is an angel.”

The meal was served by the First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown’s Youth Mission Group: Henry Dul, CJ Geller, Christian Bach, Allie LaRocco, Jocelyn Lane, Claire Reid, Riley Bissinger, Will Speziale, and Erik Holmbo who all learned the valuable lesson of helping others. “I realized that people who need a meal at a soup kitchen are not much different from all of us,” said sixth-grader Claire Reid. “It was great to see the people smile when we served them,” said ninth-grader Henry Dul.

 “We’re bombarded with bad news every day, and this experience just makes you realize the world is mostly made up of good people – tweens and teens who worked hard without one complaint, people taking time to buy and donate food, volunteers who prepped the food and of course Luis making a restaurant quality meal,” LaRocco said.

The First Presbyterian Church Youth Mission served 75 meals and had enough food left over for the Soup Kitchen to freeze and serve another again another day. For more information contact First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown at 10 Academy St., Cold Spring, 845-265-3220.
Photo courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Philipstown


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