Tommy FitzGerald is found of telling the story of growing up in a neighborhood that afforded him many opportunities, earning both money and the confidence that he could accomplish anything. It was in this spirit that Chef Tommy started Kitchen Sage, to provide opportunities for misconnected young adults in the community to grow their sense of confidence and purpose.
In early 2014 Tommy had a conversation with Monsignor Stasker who invited him to resurrect the commercial kitchen located in the Basilica Center. That kitchen had not been in operation for nearly 15 years and therefore needed many repairs and updates to be in compliance with licensing. Tommy tackled these without any cost to the Basilica. By that summer the first group of students were introduced to Kitchen Sage under the mentorship of Chef Tommy and co-founder, Chef Justin.
About a year into this initiative it became more and more evident that Kitchen Sage would benefit by being under the administrative guidance of Steepletown. Over the next year there were many conversations between the Kitchen Sage Board and Steepletown Board leadership. In 2016 Kitchen Sage dissolved as a separate non-profit organization and continued to operate as one of Steepletown’s primary workforce development initiatives. Tommy continued as the Director of Kitchen Sage, and also began an Advisory Board of those in the food service industry to help nurture and shape this emergent social enterprise. Also in 2016, under the umbrella of Steepletown, Kitchen Sage officially became a Proprietary School in the State of Michigan, elevating its status as a formidable training program in the culinary arts.
In his role as Kitchen Sage Director, Tommy continued developing community partnerships that have become critical in the support of this work. He also played an integral part in launching the first ever Camp Kitchen Sage during the summer of 2017, which served 10 young adults who are all clients of Michigan Rehabilitation Services. In 2017 there were 23 young adults who completed the Kitchen Sage training; 95% passed the ServSafe Manager Exam and earned this industry-recognized credential.
In November of 2017 Tommy decided to take a position at Mercy Health in Grand Rapids to continue doing purposeful food in our community. His role at Mercy Health will further solidify the partnership between Kitchen Sage and Mercy Health, as last week three graduates of Kitchen Sage started full-time employment with them. And so while Tommy is no longer involved in the day-to-day operations of Kitchen Sage, he will still be part of a neighborhood that seeks to support and grow the confidence and purpose of young adults in our community. Steepletown is forever grateful for the vision and efforts of Chef Tommy.