Rahman (Rock) Harper, Director of Kitchen Operations, has been busy bringing new ideas to DC Central Kitchen since his arrival in November 2011. Here’s what he had to say about his time here so far:
Why did you decide to work at DC Central Kitchen instead of staying in a restaurant setting?
I’ve been a friend of the Kitchen for many years and I served on the board last year. It is an organization and a mission that is close to my heart and when I saw there was an opening, I thought it would be a good match. Plus, I like to be taken out of my comfort zone and face new challenges. I figured we could both help each other.
One challenge has been handling the large array of products that come in. As a chef, you order. Of course, you still have to think on the fly, but not like here. This is a whole new level. Also, finding ways to incorporate some of the new approaches I bring to the Kitchen with the more traditional ways that were in place when I first started.
How has your restaurant experience helped you to meet those challenges?
In restaurants, you work will all sorts of people. I’m familiar with people from all different backgrounds, so that has helped. But when it comes down to it, cooking food is cooking food. The bottom line is we want people to like it, same as in the for-profit world.
What changes have you made in the Kitchen to help it run more efficiently?
Mainly I’ve been increasing the kitchen staff’s knowledge of how the whole machine works, where everything comes from and where it all goes out to. I’ve also put in some new systems and practices that are a bit more detailed oriented. For instance, when products come in, we weigh them and use that as a tool to help us use the product as efficiently as possible.
What has been your favorite part of working at DC Central Kitchen so far?
Knowing the impact of the work we’re doing. I went on visits to a couple of sites and being at the shelters, getting feedback, interacting and listening was all really cool.
Is there anything else you would like to add about your experience here so far and the work you are doing in the Kitchen?
Just that everyone can make a difference. All movements start with a group of concerned people just doing what they can. You don’t have to have a lot of money; everyone can do a small part.