PBS Online Film Festival


Chef Steven

Baltimore chef Steven Allbright helps feed others from the Franciscan center during the pandemic. Chef Steven returned from incarceration with slim career prospects until his culinary aptitude paved the way for him to begin a new life. Now he is able to serve the community in Baltimore City through his work at the Franciscan center. Chef Steven discusses his history and goals.

AIRED: July 12, 2021 | 0:08:02

CHEF STEVEN: We just started providing meals

throughout the entire city.

When you guys are ready to go back, just go ahead.

-So we've all been here since 4am.

We just finished our lunch service, right?

So we served 350 meals: corned beef, cabbage,

and potatoes.

We're live in the Franciscan Center Kitchen.

My name is Chef Steve and this is my team.

TEAM: Hello!

JEFFREY GRIFFIN: We are very proud to be a soup kitchen.

We are nearly 52 years old.

Every day we serve meals from four to five hundred

people a day.

Our social work team is... met with over

eight thousand individuals last year.

We help people with evictions, energy assistance,

pharmacy needs, vision needs, transportation needs.

We have a library, we have a barber shop,

we have clothing that we give out, a computer lab.

So we do everything we can under one roof so that it's easier

for our clients, that we can help them as much as we can

in one place.

Today the team here, Chef Steve, and the kitchen team,

another outstanding day.

We were able to provide 352 lunches here at the center,

while we also provided 400 lunches to

Matthew Henson Neighborhood Association.

It's amazing how something like food

can brighten up people's day, but we all know

what food can do.

And now the team is not done; they're prepping

and getting ready for dinner.

CHEF STEVE: Everything is, uh, is to go,

nobody's staying in-house.

So we have containers we've set up.

We're gonna fill them up with our food,

and we're gonna do the grab and go's,

and then when we run out of the hot food

we're gonna serve sandwiches.

We feed a village man, we do what we gotta do

to make it work.

CHEF STEVE: We've got enough, mayo?

Mayo what, mustard, what else?

Could we use that spicy creole mustard or no, too much?

We have celery seed?

What are you gonna- you need a little vinegar.

You need vinegar.

So I don't like my slaw soakin' soppy, soppy, soppy wet.

I don't think it's good that way.

So, make it in a bowl, then put it together, alright?

I want the tables and the tents no later than, uh, eight thirty.

So lets, let's start working in the kitchen then.

I went to Jeff and said listen, even in prison,

you get a hot meal every three days.

I said we have to go back to cooking.


I always cooked, and then uh, 2007 I um,

moved to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and I,

I suffer from the disease of addiction.

So I drank and I did drugs,

and I got involved in a domestic situation

where I assaulted my partner, and, um, and ended up

subsequently going to prison.

I was sentenced to ten years.

So I would cook football weekends,

I would do all the cooking in a microwave.

Believe it or not we would cook using a foot basin,

with a plastic hanger.

We used the top of tin cans to cut summer sausage, pickles,

and so forth.

And, I watched Maryland Public Television!

Who did I watch?

I watched every chef I could think of.

From Emeril Lagasse, to John Besh, to Rick Bayless,

Julia Child, Jacques Pépin.

Whatever was on Saturdays and Sundays on MPT

I was in front of the television watching.

And then I said you know what, when I get out of prison

I'm going to go to school and I'm gonna cook.

I get released, I move into a halfway house in Baltimore

and then within thirty days I was enrolled at

Stratford University Culinary School.

I graduated Magna twice.

I went to work at any place I could to get my skills up.

And just this May 29th I've celebrated 13 years

of total and complete abstinence from alcohol and drugs,

which is a miracle.

Ultimately I got the job here at the Franciscan Center

last October.

It's been a ride ever since.

All these things that I've went through,

that I needed to go through to get to where I am now.

That's how I ended up here at the Franciscan Center.


-I work sometimes a 16, 18 hour day,

and then come back the next morning

and start all over again.

-The center used to serve casseroles a lot,

and do a lot of re-heating.

I've turned this kitchen into what we call a scratch kitchen.

We make everything from scratch.

Leading a team like this has been probably one of

the greatest gifts I've ever had.

Slam it in there Brenda, boom boom boom.

Listen, who thought having a barbeque would be so much work.

This was supposed to be easy Keisha.


How much more of these you gotta set up?

Two more?


Once you set those two up.

So then, just come out there, you two, I want everyone

out front.

Ok lets go, lets see what we got.

This is coleslaw?

We'll let them in.

People line up, comin' around there.

What time is it?

Anybody got the time?

There's a reason why we work 16 hours a day,

it's because we know these folks have to be fed.

Sometimes they just keep coming.

I pray over my tilted skillet, please let me

not run out of food.

Good morning everybody!

We're trying to do a little Barbeque for y'all.

So somebody tell me something good.

Alright, plates, c'mon I got plates up lets go.

Someone start bringing plates get these people fed.


I remember what it was like being out there.

Having no hope, no faith, being left to my own devices.

I see that in a lot of the eyes of the people I serve everyday.

We make it a point to be here for them, to feed them.

You're welcome, thank you for coming, how you doing?

You're welcome, thank you, thank you for being here.

MPT, I mean, you guys have been with me since 2008,

and because of what you guys have done,

the avenue for me to become a, you know,

an Executive Chef, or a Culinary Director

here at the Franciscan Center, I mean, the idea was there,

but you really manifested the idea.

Wow, you're gonna learn to cook,

now you learn how to feed people,

now you're feeding the masses.

It started with MPT in prison.

Just being able to watch, to try to make, and then wow,

look I'm here now.

And I made it to MPT!



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