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Mise En Place

Sister Chefs Daniela Mancinelli Abel and Adriana Kalota Reflect on Their Time at Zaman

With Zaman opening a second kitchen, everything is in place for its culinary arts program to expand its impact in workforce development and onsite job opportunities for its clients and enter a new era of breaking the cycle of poverty.

Two of the women who’ve been central to building the culinary arts program over the past several years are chefs, culinary arts instructors, and sisters, Daniela Mancinelli Abel and Adriana “Adri” Kalota.

Both recently left the organization to pursue the next chapter in their professional lives, Abel to a culinary school in Royal Oak and Kalota to pursue recipe development and launch a food blog. Valued Zamanitarians, they recently reflected on their time at Zaman.


Note: Answers have been condensed and edited for clarity.


What about Zaman’s mission appeals to you?

DA: The first thing that attracted me to the organization is helping women. We grew up in a very female-centered household. It was me, Adri and my mom and dad, and my dad was the odd one out as the man in the family. My mom, raised us to be very strong opinionated forward-thinking women. And so helping women seemed incredibly natural to me and something that I want to do.

Adriana, talk about what your experience at Zaman has been like?

AK: I agree with Daniela. I love Zaman because I've witnessed firsthand the impact it has on women's lives. Whether you are making just a small donation of clothing or volunteering your time, all of that is going back into the organization and changes lives. I've seen women graduating from the vocational programs and passing their citizenship tests, and it's incredibly rewarding to see.

What’s it like watching the growth of the culinary arts program during your time at Zaman?

DA: When Najah took me into the first proposed kitchen space it was still just tile. The equipment wasn't even in the kitchen yet. And it was a blank canvas. And it's what I needed in my life at the time. I was bursting at the seams with creativity. So going from a blank canvas to all of the programs and the second kitchen, I'm proud of that growth.

What would you say to someone thinking about participating in Zaman’s culinary arts program?

DA: I would say it's not just about culinary arts, it's about life skills. It also gives them an extreme amount of confidence that they didn't know they had. Even if cooking isn’t something they end up pursuing, they study extremely hard to pass their exams. And they all came out with this huge sense of accomplishment and confidence. They feel that they can go out and conquer the world.

What did you learn from working with the clients at Zaman?

AK: I'm not a natural born teacher. So, taking on Zaman’s first apprentice was something that I really wanted to do because I had never done something like that before. It was a way to push myself. It was an incredible amount of responsibility because I felt like her education was in my hands and I did not want to let her down. I learned a lot from that first apprenticeship experience and from all the students. Seriously, to teach is to learn twice. I learned so much more about my craft when I was teaching it to other people. It was great experience.

What’s it like working in the Hope for Humanity Center?

AK: To see the amount of people that came together when COVID hit and the boxes being made constantly in the warehouse was incredible. Every time Zaman would get a phone call from anybody, we were like: “Come get a box of food.” Zaman does not turn people away. And I see that firsthand in the building every day. It doesn't matter what someone needs, they will never be turned away.

What does it mean to you to be a Zamanitarian?

DA: The first thing that comes to mind is my favorite quote by Pablo Picasso: “The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” And I think that's what it means to be a Zamanitarian and a humanitarian, and just a good person. Everyone has a gift. It could be small or large or in between. But you need to figure out how to give it away. It's our responsibility as human beings.

You both live your lives by the mantra: “mise en place,” which means “everything in its place.”  How do you apply that to your work at Zaman?

AK: In culinary school that is drilled into your head over and over again. You can't even approach the stove until everything is ready to go and prepped and organized, because the last thing you want to do is be cooking and be like: “Where are the peppers?” It puts you behind and it's not efficient. I think that is the most important skill that you can share with somebody. It makes you succeed by making sure that you are organized, that you're in the right mental place to begin cooking, and you're ready to go no matter what you’re taking on in life.

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