Daiken Nelson, a Buddhist priest in Harlem for six years, wanted to give back to the community. So he created a six-week culinary arts program called The Mandala Kitchen Project, which trains unemployed and homeless New Yorkers to become restaurant workers.
Nelson’s students learn to cook, memorize recipes and develop skills that prepare them to get a city Department of Health food handler’s certificate.
After cooking nutritious dishes in class, Nelson and the attendees pack the leftovers every Wednesday and hand out more than 70 plates of food to the needy. He hopes to open a “pay what you can” cafe sometime next year – and hire graduates of his program to staff the kitchen.