Group brings together foodies with disabilities

June 12, 2011 (CHICAGO)

In Chef's Hands was created last fall by four guys: Two who are Chicago chefs, one real estate broker and a foodie with a disability.

The Food Buddha Chef Rodello Agilbot, Jeremy Dubin and Scott Crane recently enjoyed pizza that was made by Chef Todd Stein and Crane at Florentine Restaurant where Stein is the executive chef.

"We had a cooking class here a few weeks ago, as well as at another restaurant in the city," Stein said.

The non-profit In Chef's Hands: Food Therapy for the Soul was designed for people with disabilities with the idea of offering culinary sessions with a chef.

"For those who have a passion for cooking, they could probably go to a culinary school or take a class, but where can people with disabilities or special needs go to learn how to do something?" Agilbot said.

Crane, 23, who passed away Saturday, had a rare form of muscular dystrophy called centronuclear myopathy. His passion for food inspired In Chef's Hands.

"I love food because when I cook, I can express myself through my food," Crane said.

While Crane was in the hospital he met Dubin.

"He said to me, 'Do you know who the Food Buddha is? How would you like to have lunch with him and become friends with him?' and I was like, 'Yeah that'd be amazing,' and so we called Rodello," Crane said.

"And after meeting Scott and finding out his passion for food and cooking, he only ignited mine. I think as a chef, we go day to day; we get inundated with just the same old things. But someone like Scott reminded me why I love to cook and that's for the love people and the love of food," Agilbot said.

The co-founders say there are therapeutic aspects with food.

"You know, sometimes it's very difficult for them to get outside of the house. You get stuck in a rut and in a pattern of 'this is just how my life has to be,' and we're trying to take that away and make it very accessible to people whether you come to a restaurant to eat or we teach you how to cook at home," Stein said.

"They try a dish and it makes them feel great. It puts a smile on their face," Agilbot said.

"What's so great about food is it you get to use all five senses, so for that time when you're hanging out with the chef whatever pain you're in or whatever struggles you're going through, it goes away so for that two to three hours you're going to come down and cook," Stein said.

This is just the beginning for In Chef's Hands.

"We're looking for chefs to work with people who have this passion for food and cooking," Agilbot said.

"I would love it to be all over the country so everyone who has special needs who has a passion for food or cooking or both will be able to experience this," Crane said.

"Take in all the major cities like New York, Miami, LA, San Francisco; our goal is to bring in an executive director have our own kitchen here in Chicago," Dubin said.

On Tuesday June 14 at Old Town Social, In Chef's Hands is having an event. Tickets are $25 each.

ABC7's condolences go out to Scott Crane's family. The legacy he now leaves behind will surely inspire many people down the road.

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