Duffy’s Sports Grill recently had three head chefs volunteer at The Soup Kitchen in Boynton Beach to make a difference and prepare hot meals for people in need.
The Soup Kitchen provides more than 1,000 hot meals each day at no cost to their guests from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays through Saturdays — and CEO Marlene Mejia said they rely on participating volunteers as well as food and monetary donations from private entities.
“We couldn’t be happier to have Duffy’s here, and it expands our horizons and it takes everything up a notch,” Mejia said. “The attitude from these three chefs has been amazing and really has been enlightening. It’s the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
“Feeding the hungry is arguably the most fundamental social responsibility of all,” Mejia added. “We couldn’t do this without the help of Duffy’s and all of our donors.”
Joe Webb, president of Duffy’s Sports Grill, said the three head chefs were truly excited to volunteer at The Soup Kitchen. The restaurant gives back to several organizations in Palm Beach County, including Meals on Wheels, Girl Scouts and American Red Cross. They also have a Change for Charity program where loyal MVP customers provide a donation by rounding up their check.
“We are always looking for opportunities to give back to the community. It’s been a big part of our culture for the last 35 years,” Webb said. “It’s a big deal to see our head chefs during our busiest time of the year take a day to give their support, and we appreciate it.”
The three chef volunteers provided assistance to chef Peter Moshonas, who serves as The Soup Kitchen’s food and nutrition manager. The participating head chefs were: Aaron Chase from the Duffy’s Stuart location; Victor Barron from the restaurant’s spot at Clematis in West Palm Beach; and Dominique Stafford from their Jupiter East location.
Chase, who has spent 19 years at Duffy’s, started as an hourly employee before receiving an assistant chef position and advancing to head chef.
“Duffy’s is home for me and they made me feel worthy and appreciated,” he said. “They gave me an opportunity to reach a higher goal. I am looking to carry on my legacy to my nieces and nephews and to inspire them that if you love something, to do it well. It’s been a very good hill to climb and a good journey.”
This was his “first time being involved with something like this at The Soup Kitchen,” he said. “Chef Pete (Moshonas) has opened my eyes to what it’s like to help your community and to give back. It’s a very good experience.”
Moshonas takes on the challenge of sorting through food donations and does not have advanced notice of what meals to serve. He arrives at 3:30 a.m. to begin preparation and is the leader of the kitchen staff, which includes volunteer sous chefs too. The guests at The Soup Kitchen receive a bag of fruit and vegetables, desserts, bread, two homemade hot meals, hot soup, frozen uncooked meat or protein, and any additional available items.
Moshonas said his parents previously had a restaurant in Canada and he developed a passion for culinary arts. He has previous culinary experience at country clubs, hotel resorts and private homes. He started at The Soup Kitchen as a volunteer in 2015.
“It’s very close to my heart. I come here on my day off to focus and get creative to set the menu. I get a thrill from seeing the (customers’) smiles … I appreciate when they say hello and thank you. We are family here,” he said. “It’s also a dream come true to have head chefs from Duffy’s here. They’re our extended family. They’re creative and they know the mission and concept. I trust them to go to it on their own. It’s really a blessing.”
Moshonas also runs The Soup Kitchen’s LiftUP program to provide culinary instruction to teenagers and young adults from age 18 to 25 who are close to aging out or have aged out of the foster care system. The goal is to help young adults develop skills to earn employment opportunities. He provides instruction on how to write a resume, dress for success and other life skills.
The Soup Kitchen has five full-time and seven part-time employees as well as about 300 volunteers for their programs. They’re looking for monetary donations from private entities due to a lack of funds, in order to assist more individuals in need. They’re currently at capacity for their Meals on Wheels and Taking Care of Babies programs.
“For 40 years, our mission has been to feed the hungry regardless of their circumstances,” Mejia said. “We have reacted to their particular needs. We have not wavered. We have seen people affected since the pandemic and with inflation. We are noticing the line is so much longer since last year. We have such a large amount of people to help.
“We had to cap every single program because donations have dwindled and the funding is not there. But we are as strong and feeding more than ever,” she added. “Chef Pete does so much and he is fantastic with the attitude that he brings. We plan to be here always and we think the need is always here.”
Dimitry Viarenich, COO of The Soup Kitchen, started as a volunteer in 2018 and continued to show his dedication as a volunteer during the COVID-19 pandemic. He coordinates deliveries and donations and manages volunteers.
“I did all the physical work when I started and it was rewarding because people appreciate what you do here and genuinely thank you for the things that you accomplish,” he said. “This is my home now and this is where I belong. We are here to support each other. … It’s busier now since people are struggling. We still serve the people in need and focus on hot meals, but it’s a lot more than that. We have expanded Meals on Wheels, our giant diaper program and LiftUP program. We want potential donors and volunteers to know about us.”