The Downtown Soup Kitchen Hope Center doesn’t just want to feed the homeless; staff said they want people to have the skills to help feed others as well.


That’s why the center started its first-ever culinary program to give people the training they need for a professional kitchen.


“We’re doing oven-roasted chicken with potatoes au gratin,” chef David Sorensen listed off the menu.


Each day, he and his three students prepare dinner for the dozens of women who sleep at the shelter.


Sorensen has spent nearly 40 years in the restaurant industry, from his first job in a pizza parlor to high-end fine dining. He said teaching the class is his dream job.


“I didn’t know if I was going to be a good teacher,” Sorensen said. “But when my guys are taking notes every day in class, I know I’m doing the right thing.”


Sorensen said, like many of the people who come to the Hope Center, that he’s had his struggles in life, battling drugs and alcohol for years. After a DUI arrest landed him in jail, Sorensen ended up at the Hope Center’s kitchen for community service.


“That was about seven years ago. I volunteered as the Tuesday cook for five and a half years,” Sorensen explained. “At that time I saw the potential and how it could touch more lives and raise some up.”


Classes started in October. Sorensen has been teaching his students the basics, like how to make chicken stock and slice potatoes on a mandolin without cutting themselves.


With just two weeks left before graduation, the men are now pros at butchering birds. Sorensen started them off on turkeys because they’re larger and easy to work with, but said they’ll be hacking up tiny quails in no time.


“It’s great to watch them grow. Their personalities have come out. They were reserved, withdrawn,” Sorenson said. “Being in the system for any amount of time you kind of lose faith in it. It took them a while to understand what we were offering them is what they were going to get out of the program.”


Another class will begin at the end of January. Sorensen said he hopes to have about a dozen people signed up.


He said leading the program is his chance to change lives and help the men get back on their feet so they can serve others.


KTVA 11’s Heather Hintze can be reached via email or on Facebook and Twitter.