of Culinary Arts kids eat (C.A.k.e.)
Mel Nicola — founder
Cosmic forces have a way of turning up the heat to make us change. I know this as I have spent 30 years in and out of kitchens in Los Angeles. My training as a restaurateur began in 1983 when on a busy Friday night the INS would come and arrest half our staff for not being U.S. citizens. So in one night I might have; valet parked your car, sat you at your table, brought you water, prepped your entrée, stirred your martini and washed your dishes. Having gained theses valuable professional skills made me a wiser owner.
I am now privileged to share my life skills with teens who live in the underserved high crime and severely impoverished community known as south central L.A. With little or no green space our youth have no access to healthy fresh food. In 2013 we formed Culinary Arts Kids Eat...C A K E, a non-profit that currently operates at Santee Education Complex.
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After thirty years as a restaurateur Mel Nicola is now living her purpose.
Mel is the executive director of CAKE (Culinary Arts Kids Eat), a dynamic non-profit set to inspire underserved youth to rise up out of poverty. CAKE has empowered the lives of 550 teens and recognized by L.A. Times, ABC and NBC as an innovative and sustainable approach to breaking the cycle of poverty.
Mel is an entrepreneur at heart and has just launched CAYENNE a series of sensory adventure workshops mini retreats where you
experience a true alignment with the inner soul.
Combining the curriculum from Culinary Institute of America with health-wellness-nutrition we formed a base for youth to become enriched, educated and empowered to live a healthy life. Youth receive hands on training in culinary arts to prepare them for higher learning or a professional career.
Both the American Heart Association and the California Endowment have collaborated with CAKE on creating ambassadors of health. CAKE has been featured on ABC, NBC, Univision and in the L.A. Times.
In 2015 we began the after school with CAKE program. Youth work with marines to design and build hydroponic systems and grow own food. They study regions of the world and develop fresh healthy recipes. Create their own cookbook, practice yoga & mindful meditation. Study health-wellness and interpersonal skills and become social entrepreneurs.
The CAKE team is currently working with Apple Business to create their cookbook “From Our Hood To Yours” into an “E” Book. Our advance team will be creating their own regionally inspired fresh healthy salads and will begin a scholarship fund with the profits.
Wolfgang Puck Company has invited our youth to come behind the scenes at the 2018 Oscar dinner to see the magic happen! Healing begins when the mind-body and soul are nurtured. Our youth are the seeds of change.