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Retired California Chef Builds Community Through His Volunteer Cooking

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Volunteering often provides older adults with a sense of purpose and connection to others that is linked to physical and emotional health benefits, especially after they’ve left the workforce, according to a review of research by the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency.

Show transcript

Speaker 1: 00:00 As more and more Californians get older and retire. There's a growing pool of people with time and skills that community organizations could put to work, but seniors here have a relatively low volunteer rate and often feel isolated. Well, a 77 year old San Francisco man has found a way to stay involved. He forgets about his arthritis and his cane to do what he loves, Best Cook for his community. As part of our grain California series, Kq eds for Rita job for Romero has the story

Speaker 2: 00:34 in his small kitchen. Emam Saber holds a butcher knife and trims one of the 30 New York stakes. He's laid out on a cutting board charity and they beat everybody in my own money. That's his $660 social security check and money. His wife, Hawaii, that earns from running a daycare out of their apartment in San Francisco in the kitchen next to the living room where the kids are in. Mom's got two pants

Speaker 3: 01:08 though. He says the oil has to be smoking hot before putting the meat on it. All the Jews come down or you lose everything.

Speaker 2: 01:24 Your mom worked for decades as a chef at fancy hotels and a French restaurant. Even now that he's retired and has arthritis, he loves

Speaker 3: 01:33 to cook. Why do you like it?

Speaker 2: 01:40 Growing up in Cairo, Egypt, he was one of 19 kids. He remembers watching his mother cook big meals with neighbors to share. He says in those days, men weren't allowed in the kitchen. No, because from seven years old and I couldn't stop resisting that in mom came to San Francisco in 1969 he's lived in the same flat ever since. Recreating that bustling family feel from his childhood. For him, community is number one to be around each other for decades and mom has cooked for people that mosques, schools and nonprofits. He's the guy that volunteers to bring food for Ramadan, a baby shower or the Christmas party at Saint Anthony's and organization that feeds the homeless. What I, what sticks with me the most when I think about the mom is his generosity and his, his joyful spirit. Lydia Brandston works at Saint Anthony's. She says four years. Ima made a delicious Middle Eastern banquet of chicken rice with elements and a polenta dessert with rosewater and honey. And

Speaker 4: 03:00 he brings to his cooking and his meals, this, this love of community and this, um, this sense of that through sharing a meal with another human being that you build relationship. And it's those relationships that keep us together in the end.

Speaker 3: 03:20 Enough

Speaker 2: 03:22 back at her mom's flat dinner is finally ready. He lays the cooked steaks on beds of rice, Huh?

Speaker 3: 03:29 Oh, I'm always busy. 50 years here I'm and visit for stuff. He covers the trays with foil and gets ready to deliver them. That's it.

Speaker 2: 03:41 He says goodbye to the kids in the living room who just woke up from their nap, a man of purpose on his way to feed the people.

Speaker 3: 03:53 Bye Bye.

Speaker 2: 03:58 In San Francisco. I'm Friday that Dev Valero.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

KPBS Midday Edition Segments

Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.