Susan Trieschmann, Executive Director. Susan has worked in Food Service since the age of 13. She was the Director of Catering at the legendary Pump Room before becoming an original owner and 25 year partner of Food For Thought Enterprise, www.fftchicago.com . She helped to build the company from a small catering company to a food service industry specializing in upscale catering and café food service management. Susan is also an original member of Restorative Justice Evanston (RJE), www.restorativejusticeevanston.com . RJE is a non-profit organization in Evanston that works with youth and community on peaceful dialogue around harm caused, celebrations and conflicts. Susan is an Evanston resident, has been married to Tom Trieschmann for 26 years and has two children, Trevor and Anna who are both graduates of ETHS. She is passionate about giving youth a second chance and helping them create a positive future for themselves and their families.
Karen Haber Smith, District Manager at Curt’s Cafe. Here are some of her thoughts on her work at Curt’s. “At some point early in the search for my ‘next chapter’, I read this quote by Steve Jobs. “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, You’ll know when you find it.” I knew that I wanted to feel this way when I finally made my commitment to begin a new job. I spent almost a year trying to tie together my 20 plus years of work in the Restaurant Industry, a Masters in Business Administration and my growing affection for work in the not-for-profit industry. Although there is no doubt that staying home to raise my now 7 year old daughter is truly the best job I ever had, coming on board with Curt’s certainly feels like I’ve made the best career choice for working outside the home. Teaching and mentoring our students brings a purposeful meaning to my experience working with all levels of employees in the restaurant industry. My dedication to our customers and passion for excellence, in addition to experience in strategic growth and business development in large international companies along with my franchise and operational consulting experience will all contribute to the future success of Curt’s, our students and our impact on the community.
Rebecca Parmet, Grant Writer. Rebecca has been heavily involved in public and social services since before her time at Curt’s. She received a Bachelor’s in Family Community Services from the Department of Human Development and Child Ecology at Michigan State University and a Master’s in Public Administration from Roosevelt University. Rebecca has also worked with Chicago Public School’s Student Health and Wellness programs during her graduate studies and was a special education teacher at Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools shortly after. As a program coordinator of Northwestern University’s Campus Kitchens, she discovered her knack at managing a team and has brought those skills, along with her compassion for neighborhood-building, to Curt’s Café. “I want to find creative ways to promote diversity appreciation and foster community relationships. Curt’s specifically recognizes the strength in young adults in our community by allowing them to develop their professional skills along with their personal growth. It’s a family that I’m proud of and privileged to be a part of.” Rebecca has been a mentor of Big Brothers, Big Sister for over ten years and is currently on both the advisory board of Evanston Food Exchange and the executive board of Evanston Cope. She has a lovely dog named Kobe.
Latasha Triplett (Tasha), General Manager at Curt’s Cafe. She began her career in food service at the age of 16 and after working her way up to the general manage of a corporate run restaurant she left the industry to start a family in 2001. Ever since, Tasha has been involved in important community work in Evanston that has allowed her to connect with many people and to make a difference. That’s what drew her to Curt’s. “Giving the students an opportunity they wouldn’t otherwise have is important to me and being a part of the Curt’s family helps us shine a light on that,” Says Tasha. She graduated from Ashford University in May 2015 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Service Management/Hospitality Specialty and hopes to combine her educational knowledge with work and personal experiences to help the students at Curt’s succeed. “Part of the appeal of Curt’s is seeing young men and women of color work hard, learn responsibility and accountability and prove to everyone-including themselves-that making a mistake doesn’t mean you cannot make something of your life. Many of them have been through a lot and they’ve learned lessons that a classroom will never be able to teach. More often than not, we all learn something from them,” says Tasha. In addition to her work at Curt’s, Tasha is the coordinator of KTS (Kitchen Table Sessions) at Kingsley School, which in part facilitates of Courageous Conversations: a series of meetings dedicated to discussing race matters in and around Evanston. She is also the Board President of COPE (Caring Outreach by Parents in Evanston). An Evanston native, Tasha attended Dewey, Nichols and ETHS. She and her husband Ernest have 3 beautiful children, Damon, Jason and Lacey.
Byron Gonzalez, Head Chef at Curt’s Cafe. “I leave work every day feeling happy and proud of what i do at Curt’s, says Chef Byron. He has been working in kitchens since he was 16. With his uncle’s encouragement he started washing dishes at a small pizzeria, and over time moved up to cooking in the kitchen and learning how to make everything, including pizza dough from scratch. From there he went on to cooking school and graduate from the Le Cordon Bleu. Eventually, he joined his uncle who was a private chef at Northwestern University, and spent several years as a cook in a sorority and fraternity on campus.With experience cooking for young adults, Chef Byron was excited for the opportunity to turn the tables and teach young adults how to cook. Especially the young adults that we train at Curt’s. “After my very first interview at Curt’s I went home and told my wife this was the job for me,” he says.”I wasn’t the best teen and did some dumb stuff and got in trouble so I can relate to what they are going through. I like that I get to interact with the students all day and find out stuff about them and tell them stuff about me. I train them in cooking but also when they get comfortable with me they open up and talk about their lives and I try to help them make good decisions. Just like what my uncle did for me, I know I can have an impact on them and want to help them out. I’ve worked in a lot of kitchens, but nothing has ever been as meaningful and what I am doing here at Curt’s.”
Christine S. Leone, MSW, LSW “This job feels like the coming together of all the work experiences I have had up to now,” says Christine who previously helped others navigate the legal system, school system, and the worlds of mental health and public benefits. With a Masters Degree from Jane Adams School of Social Work, Christine most recently worked as a Field Coordinator at the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services. Her work at Curt’s is an exciting opportunity for Christine who has a great deal of admiration for the young women we serve. “All our students have incredible strengths and tenacity,” she says. ” I am not here to tell them what they should do, I am here to listen to them tell me what they want to do. I believe my role is to link them to community resources they may not be aware of and provide support and information that will allow them to make informed decisions for themselves and their families.” Christine has experience working with individuals and family systems, and understands the layers of challenges our students sometimes face. “With issues such as trauma and lack of affordable housing and childcare it can be difficult to come in everyday and focus on work,” she says. “When this is the case, my hope is that we can effectively address these issues before they leave our program so they can reach their full potential in the career or educational opportunity of their choice.” After leaving a Ph.D. program to spend more time with her newborn son a year ago, Christine is now happy to play an integral part in Curt’s South’s training program. “Curt’s can be an incredibly useful stepping stone between whatever situation led the students to the program and obtaining long term employment” she says.
Lori Dube, Director of Networking at Curt’s Café. Lori is a social worker and life coach by training and a networker and motherly type by nature. She has been a regular at Curt’s Cafe almost since it opened its doors and has been actively connecting Curt’s to its customers and to the Evanston community ever since. Dube has three teenagers, Abe, Louie and Lily. Her husband Monte is also a big fan of Curt’s mission and its lattes. “I’ve done my best to support my own kids navigate the world,” says Lori. “At Curt’s, our students deserve the same amount of support and love. It’s meaningful to me to be able to be a part of the team that offers it to our students,” In addition to Curt’s Cafe, Lori is an active supporter of the Lilac Tree and the American Jewish World Service.
Laurie Kaplan, Director of Development at Curt’s Cafe. Laurie comes to Curt’s with a background in Development on the funding side, and in corporate marketing.”I have had the privilege of giving away money so I am very familiar with the funding process, and have a broad view of the areas of need in the Chicagoland area.” As a member of the Curt’s team, Laurie will use her wide range of skills, honed over years in corporate and non-profit settings. “Curt’s has such an engaging mission,” says Laurie. “It’s exciting to reach out to people to share our objective of providing hope to at-risk youth. It’s work that fires my engine. It certainly engages my heart as well as my brain.” What else makes Laurie a great fit for Curt’s Cafe? Once upon a time she wanted to be a Chef, and still has a personal passion for cooking, and she is the mother of two young adults.
BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Patti Anderson, Vice President, Commercial Banking, Fifth Third Bank
“My son introduced me to Curt’s when he became a volunteer right after graduating from college. My three children are on a path to a great future, and I believe all teens deserve the same opportunities. Being involved with Curt’s Cafe allows me to be part of helping to create those opportunities for teens who have had a challenging start in life. At-risk teens are underserved in our community, so it is important to give them the right tools and resources early before bad habits take deeper roots and the consequences become too high.”
“Throughout most of my career, I have worked with children in the child welfare system. As a young doctor, I worked at Cook County Hospital, ultimately directing their Child Protection Team. I was considered a regional expect on Child Abuse and traveled throughout the Midwest teaching other doctors, law enforcement officials and child protection workers how to recognize child abuse and neglect. I have sat on the Cook County Child Death Review Committee as well as the Boards for The Illinois Professional Society on Child Abuse and the Center for Law and Social Work. Throughout these experiences, I witnessed beautiful happy babies and toddlers grow in a world where circumstances and lack of options quickly robbed them of hope and spirit. My dear friend Susan Trieschmann has brilliantly addressed these issues in creating Curt’s Cafe. Some of my happiest and most fulfilling experiences in the last 2 years have been watching Susan as she tirelessly works with her “students”, teaching them life skills, gaining their trust and respect, and helping them regain hope. When I can, I try to spend time at Curt’s, helping in any way I can. The rest of my time is dominated these days by my job as a Pediatrician with Town and Country Pediatrics in Chicago.
“I fell in love with Curt’s now-“famous” green drink very soon after the cafe opened its doors. And then I fell in love with the rest of Curt’s menu, and even more…its mission. There are times when I feel truly helpless about all the places in the world that seem mired in a cycle of violence and poverty, but Curt’s has given me the opportunity to actively work against these scourges in my very own back yard with youth whose faces I can see and whose successes I can celebrate every day. At heart, I’m a communicator—I love to get folks as fired up as I am about issues that are important to me. It’s not hard to do that with Curt’s, where anyone who visits can eat, drink, chat…and make a real difference in a young person’s life. One of my first jobs out of college was as a job developer for low-income youth at Jobs For Youth/Chicago. It’s where I met my husband, who was a GED teacher. So the fit between me and Curt’s is a natural one. I also served as the Associate Director of the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism and all types of prejudice and was a Senior Account Executive at Jasculca Terman Public Relations. I’m an involved member of Beth Emet The Free Synagogue and recently raised funds so that our teens, along with teens from Evanston’s Second Baptist Church could spend a week together on a bus tour of the civil-rights-era south.”
I first connected to the Curt’s working in a community outreach capacity in Evanston, when I had the great pleasure of selecting Curt’s Cafe as the beneficiary of a charitable giving program. During those months of partnership, I got to know more of the folks who make this place possible, and I was hooked! My work took me out of Evanston, but I found myself drawn back to the cafes, and to this uniquely nurturing environment the Curt’s team has cultivated. I am so inspired by our amazing students, the incredible staff and volunteer team that supports them, and the unparalleled generosity of the Cafes’ patrons.
Jeff Mackevich, Financial Advisor
I have been a financial advisor specializing in retirement income strategies for 35 years. There was an opportunity for me to take a six month sabbatical and found myself washing dishes with the students at Curt’s Café. I was hooked. The staff, students, and volunteers accepted me into their community. Curt’s is unique, combining the organized chaos of a restaurant, bakery, catering service, and social service agency. The kids are welcomed into a loving and supporting environment. Everyone has a positive attitude and high expectations. They need to get up to speed quickly and follow the rules (like showing up on time ready to work). The transformation of each student over the three month program is incredible. They are prepared to speak confidently and demonstrate their skills in the working world. Curt’s exists and thrives from the tireless efforts of the staff and volunteers and community support.
Derrick Q Milligan, National Sales Director, Heart Zones
Technology marketer turned fitness professional, Derrick Q. Milligan, served as Director of Sales and Marketing for The Haven Corporation before becoming Peapod’s Director of Marketing and first National Spokesperson. After Peapod went public he chose to transition from the professional mantra of smart shopping for busy people to smart training for highly effective people. “I have been fortunate to have been guided and nurtured by some of the most innovative leaders and executives in the world including but not limited to Sally Edwards (Heart Zones), Terry McLaughlin (Total Immersion), Glen Mills (Go Swim), Bruce Wigo (The International Swimming Hall of Fame), Steve Rogers (Harvard), Mellody Hobson (Ariel Investments) and the United States Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker,” says Derrick. He holds certifications in GoSwim, inerTRAIN, Total Immersion, Professional Tennis Registry, Complete Health Improvement Project (CHIP) and Heart Zones Systems. He is a board member and driving force for Tri-Masters Sports Initiative Programs. He combines Dr. Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow concept with George Leonard’s Mastery process to guide his clients to peak fitness, personal and professional performances. Through his articles, presentations, workshops, training and teaching sessions, Derrick has positively influenced thousands to find balance and power in life through fitness training and wellness education. His is a lifelong pursuit of optimal experiences in peak performance and engagement. Derrick lives to explore, train and discover with his wife Kathy and children Fezeka, Kya and Ayani.
Amanda Myers, Project Coordinator – NRI Youth Fresh Start Program, Howard Area Employment Resource Center
“I developed a passion for helping young people while serving as program coordinator for a non-profit juvenile re-entry program. One of the challenges we faced was finding adequate job-readiness/ placement programs for these young people. I love Curt’s because it does this and so much more. Many young people require help and resources from their community to succeed. They are still children, even though some have to be adults much sooner than their time.”
Amy Schuman, Principal, Family Business Consulting Group
“We’ve lived in Evanston, close to Curts, for almost 20 years. All three of our now-grown kids graduated from Evanston Township High School. In my work and family life, I’ve had tons of encouragement, stability, and love, from family, friends and colleagues. Without that support, I never would have been able to embrace the risks and adventures of my life. As a business owner and consultant, I’ve learned a lot about creating stable, growing, values-driven organizations and I hope some of those insights will prove useful to Curts. I’m honored to be part of the team at the Cafe, helping our students build job and life skills so they can fulfill their life’s potential and take their place as strong contributing community members. And — along with all that serious stuff — we have a lot of fun at the Cafe, laughing together and getting to chow down on fantastic, home-made food and drink. From the moment I had my first coffee and scone at Curts, I’ve been in awe of how Susan and the rest of the crew combine structure with flexibility, and how they just show up, 150%, day after day, for whatever challenges might choose to pop up on any given day. “
Wilma Nachsin, Collaborative career coach and strategist at Jewish Vocational Services
“As a “possibility creator,” I am passionate about helping others find rewarding jobs and careers, empowering them to follow their dreams and step into the job that’s best for them. It’s a privilege to have the chance to positively impact the life of even one teen and help him or her make better life choices. It’s especially gratifying to see the faces of teens who are struggling to make changes light up when they realize that turning around their lives is entirely doable.”