Chef Erik Tannehill combines a love for creating delectable dishes with giving back to his community. Tannehill, a lifelong resident of Michigan City, has been a part of St. Paul Lutheran Church’s soup kitchen for the better part of a decade. Tannehill launched the Emergency Soup Kitchen during the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in the Region.
“We were thinking that the pandemic was only going to last four to six weeks, but we’re going on six months now. We’re just trying our best to provide food to those in need,” Tannehill said.
Tannehill’s love for food came during his teenage years. The decision to pursue this love as a career came shortly after.
“I tried to work industrial jobs, and it just wasn’t for me,” Tannehill said. “I cooked a bit when I was a young man, but I realized cooking was my thing, and I ended up working with some of the best chefs in the Region.”
Tannehill used his skills as a chef to help train some of the Region’s troubled residents with the Emergency Soup Kitchen.
“I wanted to give back to my community by giving people who are recently out of homelessness, incarceration, or anything like that, skills that can help them get a job somewhere once they’re back above water.” Tannehill said.
Tannehill’s passion for giving back has been paid forward by residents all over the Region. Tannehill’s goal to help his fellow citizens with finding work and shattering the cycle of poverty that is evident throughout the Region has not gone unnoticed. Fellow organizers in Michigan City launched a GoFundMe campaign to help continue his job training program, “Cook with Confidence, Dine with Dignity.”
“Nobody should go hungry. I want to give people who would otherwise have a hard time finding a job a chance to get tangible experience in the kitchen so they can then find a job to provide food and money for themselves and their families,” Tannehill said.
“My dream is to get people into an accountability program, train them for three to four months, and move them forward,” Tannehill said. “People blindly fill out applications hoping for something to change. The job program was to help supply employees since the restaurant business is hurting right now.”
Tannehill fears that his staff will have a hard time adjusting to COVID-19’s impact once winter comes.
“We were told that the curve would flatten out by now, and I’m afraid winter is going to be hard on us.” Tannehill said. “I don’t take a check for this. We make enough money for me to pay my staff and supply the ingredients for our recipes. In the end, this will all pass, but it’s definitely been on my mind.”
Tannehill hasn’t allowed the ongoing pandemic to lower his spirits.
“You just gotta keep going forward. You can’t give up and don’t be afraid to take a chance in order to find success. For many years I sat behind the scenes doing nothing, and then I took a chance by reaching out to my community.” Tannehill said.
Tannehill uses his kitchen as a way to provide a chance to start over. “I do the kitchen as a way to make a difference in this area that’s considered a ‘Rust Belt’ area. We show up everyday and keep moving forward.”
You can support Erik’s GoFundMe campaign at https://www.gofundme.com/f/fundraiser-for-a-community-hero-to-pursue-dream
You can also call Melt Kitchen for carry-out, pickup, or catering at (219) 243-3331. You can pick up your meals at 810 W Lincolnway LaPorte, IN 46350