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A Cookbook To Support The Homeless


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Cooking wasn’t Cardie Mortimer’s first career. But it may be the one he’s having the most impact with.

Mortimer, a long-time Verona resident, has been a professional actor, comedian, producer, director, teacher and former executive for the Walt Disney Company. He’s also a professionally trained executive chef. And now, he has released “Keep On Cookin’: A Celebration of Life Through Cooking,” a cookbook to benefit organizations that help the homeless.

Mortimer came to appreciate the healing properties of cooking during a long recovery from major back surgery more than a decade ago. His desire to resume cooking gourmet meals helped motivate him through grueling physical therapy sessions. When it was over, he thanked the medical staff that had helped him by cooking them an authentic, New Orleans lunch. The experience led Mortimer to create a business, Culinary Therapy, that lifted spirits through food, doing things like bringing cooking demonstrations into nursing homes.  The New Orleans vibe continues in the cookbook, which includes recipes for Chicken, Andouille, and Shrimp Gumbo and Chicken Napoleons with Velouté Sauce, as well as New Orleans Crabmeat Dip.

All proceeds from “Keep On Cookin’: A Celebration of Life Through Cooking,” will go to the Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless (TVCH). The central Tennessee non-profit helps run day centers and warming shelters to keep the homeless safe from harsh weather and, through its National Rural Homeless Institute, it is educating other homeless service providers in implementing these models.

So how did someone from New Jersey wind up aiding a nonprofit in Tennessee? Three years ago, while on a Caribbean vacation, Mortimer and his wife Lynne made the acquaintance of a retired U.S. Air Force general. “He told me that he loved volunteering for a very special organization, the Tennessee Valley Coalition for the Homeless, and had just recently joined its board.” They continued their conversations about Mortimer could also help TVCH and eventually planned a dinner to benefit homeless veterans. Last summer, Mortimer and Jim Fuller, a Verona resident who Mortimer calls “my top cook,” flew down to Knoxville for three days to prepare the New Orleans-themed meal.

“I hadn’t met anyone with a heart as big as mine until I met Chef Cardie,” Melanie Cordell, CEO of TVCH writes in the intro to the cookbook. “At this moment, I knew we were going to be friends forever. Chef Cardie had been praying about doing something to help people who were homeless, especially homeless veterans. I didn’t know, until the fundraiser, that he shares a special connection with the homeless population.”

The connection goes back to Mortimer’s years in New York City, when he had befriended a homeless man named Charlie. One day, when Mortimer was was heading to work, he saw police near the area where Charlie usually slept; Charlie had frozen to death. At the TVCH benefit dinner, Mortimer presented the organization to establish “Charlie’s Fund” to help people stay warm in winter.

Mortimer had been working on a cookbook as a separate benefit project, but had not decided who he wanted to gift it to. “Then God literally spoke to me from above and the answer was staring me right in the face,” he says. “The TVCH was the answer.” 

“Keep On Cookin’: A Celebration of Life Through Cooking” is now available to pre-order. You can learn more about purchase options on the cookbook’s website.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected]


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