A bolt from the blue can be a powerful guidepost in life that doesn’t come around very often. When it does, listen to it. Bill Bracken grew up in the small town of Wathena, Kansas. Population 1,364. He started cooking at home as a young man with his mom and grandmother.
After high school, Bill attended a small vocational school before winning a scholarship from a national cooking competition to the Culinary Institute of America. He graduated with honors and in the top ten in his class. Starting in the eighties, chefs became rock stars, and suddenly this kid from a small town in Kansas found himself in Beverly Hills as Executive Chef of he Belvedere Restaurant at The Peninsula Hotel. During his time there the Belvedere won the AAA Five Diamond Award for twelve consecutive years. He also won “Chef of the Year” from the California Restaurant Writers Association.
In 2008, the financial downturn began and in 2011 Bill found himself unemployed. As a man of faith, Bill contemplated what it was he was meant to be doing. He knew one thing for sure, “I wanted to leave this world a little bit better than when I arrived.” While sitting at a coffee shop one day, a food truck drove by and the bolt from the blue arrived.
Bill saw firsthand what the current recession was doing to people in his community and decided to do something about it. In 2013, Bracken’s Kitchen was born. His non-profit food program, based out of Huntington Beach, serves over twelve hundred meals a week – free of charge. Using his food truck Betsy, Bill prepares and cooks high-end, quality food for children, veterans and the elderly who are at risk of hunger.
Bill is also in the midst of starting a culinary training program to help people get jobs in the restaurant business. “This is a hand up, not a hand out.” A bolt from the blue is profound – and so is bringing happiness to thousands of people a month.