Chef Martha Wiggins – Biography

Martha Wiggins brings a passion for the culinary craft to all her dishes. Growing up in Washington, D.C., Wiggins started in the industry at local deli Pumpernickels at 15 years old. Here she found her passion for professional cooking. At age 20, she moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts and attended a culinary arts program while also advancing her culinary experience in several fine-dining establishments.

In 2010, Wiggins came to New Orleans and joined the staff of Sylvain as the sous chef to executive chef Alex Harrell. In October 2014, Wiggins took over as executive chef at Sylvain. As executive chef at Sylvain, her modern gastropub fare landed her on The Times-Picayune’s list of Chefs to Watch 2015, Gambit’s 2015 Emerging Chefs list, and her holiday cocktail snacks were featured on the cover of Food & Wine’s December 2015 issue. Her work at Sylvain garnered attention from the James Beard Foundation. In 2017, Wiggins was a semifinalist for the Rising Star Award; in 2018, she was among the semifinalists for Best Chef South.

In early 2018, Wiggins left Sylvain and joined the opening team at The Elysian Bar at the new Hotel Peter & Paul, ranked number five among Bon Appetit’s 10 Best New Restaurants in 2019.

Today, Wiggins joins Café Reconcile as Executive Chef to pursue not only her culinary passion but desire to mentor and train young people and prepare them for the rigor of a competitive hospitality industry.

As Executive Chef, Wiggins will lead the transformation of the Reconcile kitchen, creating the best possible environment for teaching, learning, and personal growth for Reconcile Interns and Alumni. Moreover, she will transform the Café Reconcile culinary experience, reimagine the philosophy behind the café menu and dining experience while preserving its traditional New Orleans fare, and establish Café Reconcile as one of New Orleans’ most recognized eateries.

In concert with Café Reconcile’s commitment to equity and inclusion, Wiggins is dedicated to initiatives that bring attention to and eliminate inequities in the restaurant industry. She aims to affect change and create more equitable work environments that respect and reward the talents and contributions of all workers within a creative, diverse, and dynamic industry.

“At Café Reconcile, we are not only creating a meal and memorable dining experience. We have the ability to change lives by supporting young people who are chasing their dreams,” said Wiggins. “I’m inspired to craft a culture that empowers Interns and Alumni to acquire the skills that will set them on the path to a career. But equally important is the opportunity for Reconcile to set the example, standard, and expectation for a hospitality industry culture for our Interns and Alumni that values and respects all, no matter the position someone holds.”

Meet Martha Wiggins, Reconcile Exec. Chef (Photos)

On Saturday, Feb. 27, Reconcile New Orleans officially celebrated its new Executive Chef, Chef Martha Wiggins. Of course, the roll-out event was held with limited capacity in order to follow city guidelines. A select group of past and present board members and supporters, a small group of media affiliates, and limited staff were invited to meet Chef Martha, hear her vision, and see her talents all while tasting some of her delicious dishes. Read Full Bio on Chef Wiggins!

Equity in the Hospitality Industry – Response

Reconcile has been in contact with James and Yasmin Washington and are working with them to be agents of change. As a workforce training non-profit that connects predominantly young Black people to employment in hospitality, Reconcile knows that negative business practices, stereotyping people of color — both as guests and employees — are deeply embedded within the industry.

For the past several months, Reconcile has worked with Desi Vega, receiving donations of food product to support our operation. Desi Vega is not one of our Employment Partners, however, we are pleased that they have said they are turning this experience into actions of change for both their guests and employees, and hope that it inspires other establishments to do the same.

A big part of Reconcile’s mission is ensuring equitable environments – both by modeling it in our own practices and by being selective in who we choose as employment partners for our young people. We use the values of empathy, respect, compassion, and support as our guiding principles. We will continue to work towards creating more equitable environments for all our stakeholders, be those guests, program participants, or staff. Our gratitude goes out to the Washingtons for their expression of support.

Meet Deja’Nae

You Give Hope to Alumni Like Deja’Nae.

Reconcile Alumni continue to chase their dreams in 2021, and it takes their courage and your support to share their stories.

Your donation improves the work of our Employment Partnerships team, creating opportunities that help Deja’Nae and other Alumni connect to work.

Reconcile’s newest employment partner is The Store Poboys on Vets, who hired Deja’Nae as their full-time cashier. She is not only the first person seen by a customer, but she also manages phone calls, the point-of-sale system, UberEATS, DoorDash, and other computer-skilled tasks that require attention to detail.

“Deja has been a wonderful addition to our team,” Chef Reuben Laws, The Store owner, said. “Her singing and dancing in the kitchen creates smiles to go along with her superb restaurant skills.”

then and now…

Our doors are open as we continue to connect young people to internships and jobs in this time of immense need.

Once Reconcile Interns are matched with internships/employment, they and their employers work with Reconcile’s Education and Employment Manager who provides 12 months of follow-up support to help Interns and employment partners successfully manage the transition.

Your generosity provides training and support for individuals to get a job that can lead to a long-term career. Job stability can be transformative for young people and their families — together, we can strengthen New Orleans families and our community.

Your donations create field experiences and site visits to inspire young people on their journey. Deja’Nae had these experiences; and we need to make sure Alumni who find themselves unemployed due to the pandemic, turning to Reconcile for help, have the same opportunities.

Thanks to you, we are fulfilling the most important purpose of Reconcile. That’s not only ensuring our young people are employable but, more importantly, ensuring the employers are giving our Interns the best chance to succeed and grow.

Will you create a new opportunity today?

2021 Mardi Gras Catering Menu

Café Reconcile Open House on Monday, Jan. 25

Eight Reconcilers Honored at 2020 Graduation

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, Reconcile New Orleans honored eight young people at its 2020 Graduation Ceremony.

Congratulations to the following graduates:

Deon – Class 4, 2019
Ty’kia – Class 4, 2019
Dorian – Class 5, 2019
Caleb – Class 6, 2019
Clarence – Class 6, 2019
Jesus – Class 6, 2019
Johnell – Class 6, 2019
Ariane – Class 1, 2020

Reconcile Distributes 1,000 Meals to Voters at Polling Sites

Café Reconcile Closed on Election Day for Interns and Staff to Participate in the Voting Process

NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 3, 2020 — Café Reconcile was closed for dine-in and take-out services on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3, to ensure interns and staff can cast their votes. However, while the café was closed, a volunteer team of Reconcile staff and alumni, who tackled their own voting first, spent the day distributing a total of 1,000 free meals and bottled water at nine New Orleans polling locations as voters participated in local and national elections.

The distribution of meals began at 11 a.m. at the Dryades YMCA and at each of the following polling places until approximately 1:30 p.m.

Dryades YMCA 2200 Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard (70113)  NOFD Engine House #27 2118 Elysian Fields Avenue (70117)  
Edna Karr High School 3332 Huntlee Drive (70131)  Phillis Wheatley Community School 2300 Dumaine Street (70119)  
Alice M. Harte Elementary School 5300 Berkley Drive (70131)  Asia Baptist Church 1400 Sere Street (70122)  
Dolores T. Aaron Academy 10200 Curran Boulevard (70127)  New Zion Baptist Church 2319 Third Street (70113)  
 St. David Catholic Church 5617 St. Claude Avenue (70117)  

“Many voters have to work more than one job to make ends meet and support their families. They may not vote for fear of not making their shift on time,” said Gerald Duhon, Executive Director of Reconcile New Orleans. “That shouldn’t be the case.  Voting is an important part of our democracy and one that should be easy to access. By closing our doors on Election Day, Reconcile wants show our community that we believe voting matters.”

The decision to close Café Reconcile on Election Day was an easy one. As a workforce development organization that makes professional development a priority, Reconcile has made it a point to understand how race, the workforce, and elections impact our community. 

“Long lines are anticipated, and many voters will use their lunch hour to cast their votes,” added Duhon. “Reconcile’s volunteer team of staff and alumni want to support those who are participating in the voting process in a way that is true to our Café Reconcile mission – providing a free jambalaya lunch and water.” A total of 1,000 free meals and bottled water will be distributed.

Café Reconcile will reopen for dine-in and take-out service on Wednesday, November 4 from 11 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Visit www.cafereconcile.org for Café Reconcile’s daily menu and to learn about Holiday Catering.

Our Civic Duty: Reconcile Closed on Election Day

Practicing Our Civic Duty
Reconcile to Close Election Day, Tuesday, November 3

To become a more racially equitable organization, Reconcile will be closed tomorrow, Tuesday, November 3, for Election Day. Closing the building will ensure all staff have the opportunity to vote and practice their civic duty.

A team of staff and alumni – who’ve tackled their own voting first – will spend the day volunteering at various voting centers, passing out food and water to locations that will certainly have long lines and anxious voters engaged in their civic process.

The decision to close is an easy one. Reconcile is one team and one heartbeat. As a workforce development organization that makes professional development a priority, we have made it a point to open our eyes to the conflicted world around us. Staff have been working with racial equity consultant Claire Minson, Founder & Principal at Sandra Grace, LLC and Vera Foundation to understand how race, the workforce, and elections impact our community. 

A key take away?  Hourly workers, many of which have more than one job to make ends meet, often don’t vote for fear of not making their shift on time. Many of Reconcile’s young people work hourly jobs to support their families. By closing our doors on Election Day, Reconcile wants to show the community that we believe voting matters. Giving employees the opportunity to vote without concern of losing their job is important. This election season, we have helped Alumni get registered to vote and tomorrow we will support our community while they are out in action. 

The Café will be back up and running Wednesday through Friday. Stop by to enjoy a tasty meal and meet our current cohort of Interns to ask them what voting felt like on Election Day. 

Most importantly, we invite you to join Reconcile New Orleans on Tuesday to practice your civic duty and vote!

Together, WE ARE RECONCILE.

To Teach, One Must Learn

In order to teach, one must first learn.

Dorian, a 2019 Alumnus, is a perfect example. At the start of 2019, he realized that he needed more guidance and worked hard everyday to find it. Upon completing an Intern application, he found that guidance in Café Reconcile. 

Eight weeks later, he found more than just guidance. He gained confidence, improved communication skills, and learned the importance of punctuality.

A few months later, Dorian realized the Reconcile Intern application was simply the first of many applications that he would fill out over the next few years. His second application—to teach at Pierre A. Capdau Charter School in New Orleans—led to an interview. And so his journey continues. 

Dorian recently stopped by the Café to celebrate his new job teaching at Capdau Charter School. He met with us to share his story and express how the confidence he gained at Reconcile helps him every time he teaches young people, although during the pandemic he finds himself behind a laptop more than in front a classroom of students. 

“I do preach [to my students] some of the rules from Reconcile,” Dorian said. “Especially being on time, because I used to be late when I was younger. My advice to my students and the current Reconcile Interns is to be grateful for the staff.”

WATCH THE REST OF DORIAN’S ALUMNI REFLECTION

Dorian took advantage of gift card and meal distribution events that helped Alumni bridge the gap formed by the COVID-19 pandemic. He considers Reconcile to be a resource that lasts forever.

You provide the resources that help our young people succeed. The tools we use—laptops, projectors, notebooks, desks, and many other basic learning materials—are not taken for granted. You help fund the weekly text messages sent to our Alumni. These texts alert Alumni of job opportunities, training workshops, and financial aid.

Thanks to you, Alumni can bounce back into work and use their Reconcile experience to help others learn, grow, and chase dreams. 

Will you support Alumni who are looking for work? 
If so, click the ‘Donate’ button below.