Moving America Forward

Meet the Chef Who Believes Everyone Deserves a Five-Star Meal

January 30, 2014
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Meet the Chef Who Believes Everyone Deserves a Five-Star Meal
Andy Cross / The Denver Post
Chef Mama Dee gives homeless vets, runaway teens, and impoverished kids meals they won't forget.

Deanna Turner trained at the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco, and worked at a chef at the upscale Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs before deciding that there were people who needed her culinary artistry more. The 57-year-old Turner, known as Mama Dee to the many who love her, runs the kitchen at the Comitis Crisis Center in Aurora, Colo., serving homeless veterans, runaway teens, and others living in poverty, providing shelter for them in a barracks once used by Fitzsimmons Army Hospital.

Mama Dee marinates and seasons the food with the same care she took when she cooked for paying customers, and pays attention to the presentation of the food on the plate. She remembers the food preferences of each child she serves, making them feel special. “The minute you start to treat a kid like an institutional kid, they start to think of themselves as an institutional kid, and they start to act like an institutional kid,” James Gillespie, the development director of the crisis center told Joey Bunch of the Denver Post.

Mama Dee told Bunch, “Some of these people don’t get a meal for two or three days, so when they get here, I want to make sure it’s good. No matter what they’ve been through, when they get here they’re eating five-star. I can do that for them.” For her work, her town has honored her with the “Amazing Auroran” award.

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