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From homeless to hummus

Jennifer Zielinski

A lifetime of passion and a little generosity are the keys which led one Kelowna man to turn his life around.

Ken Poirier returned home one day to an empty house; his roommate had stolen all of his belongings and failed to pay the rent, leaving the 53-year-old man homeless.

He went to the Gospel Mission to sleep, and to the Metro Community Church to eat. But one day a chance meeting with a local business owner sparked a new beginning.

“I was at the Gospel Mission for about a month and started volunteering in the kitchen to stay occupied, and then one day Darren and I crossed paths,” says Poirier.

Darren Bates, owner of Sliderz Community House, had taken his chances with several other chefs at his newly opened restaurant, and lost.

“I saw a lot of people who were looking for a job but didn’t really have any passion in what they did. And I could see with Ken that he had been through a bit of a rough patch, but he had a heart of gold and I was meeting people that he had taken aside and taught a vocational skill to, and I just decided to bank on him.”

Banking on the new chef also aligned with the Sliderz Community House vision; ‘to enrol the local community in finding unique and creative ways to help others’.

Chef Ken was determined to help those who had once been there for him when he needed help, so he asked Bates if the restaurant would assist in feeding those at the Metro.

“He was just really passionate about feeding people and he was also someone who had eaten at the Metro. He basically hooked me up with them.”

The Metro’s executive director Laurence East says it’s extremely positive to have a business like Sliderz, and a former client like Ken, to contribute to the Metro.

“It actually builds the sense of self-worth in people,” he explains. “It’s not just about food or providing a bowl of food that is delicious. It's about actually giving me a sense of dignity.”

Chef Ken is still ignited by his new job six months later, but he's also ready to take on a lifetime passion of making his special hummus. He's worked in restaurant kitchens since the age of 12 but it was his ability to create a delectable hummus that proved to be his real strength.

“Everybody told me for years that I should be selling it. I actually went to Community Futures to try and get a loan to start a company and the one instructor told me I am going to make a million dollars off of my hummus one day, “ says the chef. “That was the deciding factor that I have to do this.”

Investing once again in Poirier, Sliderz owner Bates allowed the hummus creator to use the restaurant kitchen to make and package his new product.

Chef Ken’s Naked Chickpea hummus sells at Sliderz for five dollars and can soon be found at the Mediterranean Market.

Sliderz Community House is located at 235 Bernard Ave.


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