Karmela Galicia ’98

2013 Distinguished Citizen Award

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As senior chef instructor of the award-winning Chicago's Community Kitchen, Karmela Galicia combines her longtime interests in the culinary arts and helping others. In 1999 she joined the Greater Chicago Food Depository as associate director of agency relations, fostering collaboration among the agency and more than 650 food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters. Galicia was nominated by Kate Maehr ’89, executive director of the Depository and herself a Distinguished Citizen.

After five years, Galicia left to pursue a culinary arts degree at Kendall College, but her goal wasn’t to work in Chicago's elite eateries. “Rather than four-star restaurants or high-end catering companies,” wrote Maehr, “Karmela returned to a life of public service, first at Chicago's renowned Inspiration Café, where she worked with homeless individuals, and in 2009 back at the Food Depository, where she joined our award-winning Chicago’s Community Kitchens program.”

CCK is a 14-week workforce development program that provides food service training for unemployed and underemployed adults, many of whom have checkered pasts. As one man put it, before CCK, “The only thing I had ever completed was a prison sentence.”

Galicia is responsible for all aspects of their training, from making a vinaigrette to performing culinary math. While learning, students produce meals for up to 2,000 low-income children every weekday. If students struggle, CCK will tirelessly tutor them—but they don’t bend the rules. “They leave the program with pride in what they’ve accomplished because they did it,” says Galicia, “not because someone changed the rules to make it easier.”

Wrote Maehr, “Karmela is an inspiration to me and all those who have the honor of working with her.”