Kitchen On Fire in Berkeley offers some of the highest rated cooking classes in the country. Even if you can barely pull off making a frozen pizza, it’s easy to be inspired working with Olivier Said, also known as Chef Olive.
“He’s a bundle of energy, and you know he’s what people ask for. You know it’s that energy walking in the room to get people excited about whatever they’re doing,” said Kitchen On Fire co-owner and nutritionist, Lisa Miller.
Their classes fill up quickly with date nights, cooking parties, and corporate team building workshops. Chef Olive also makes sure he’s working with people who normally wouldn’t have the opportunity to be in his kitchen.
“I was a professional driver for 20 years, I’m driving a limo. And career change,” said Luc Ciel, who was there with Bread Project, a non-profit that Chef Olive frequently works with as a guest instructor. They offer a free, intensive bakery training program to those facing economic barriers.
“My dream job now is to be a baker. I love to bake,” said Ciel.
Chef Olive teaches kitchen skills and offers advice on what potential employers are looking for.
“That little thing with eggs would get them hired. And they would call me, ‘Chef Olive, guess what they asked me to do? The mayonnaise.’ And I’m like I know that.” Growing up in France, Chef Olive’s grandmother and aunts taught him how to cook, using healthy, unprocessed foods. It’s that traditional way of cooking that Kitchen On Fire is so enthusiastic about.
“It definitely comes through in the way he teaches, in the way he treats people, and he makes it fun and enjoyable for everyone,” said Bread Project Chef Instructor, Gram Gould.
Bread Project has an 85 percent graduation rate. Almost everyone who completes the program is able to find work in the baking and food service industry.
“It’s a lot of giving. But you receive a lot. Not in money but in much more important things. That richness comes from those people that you’re helping. Money cannot buy that,” said Olive.
In addition to helping Bread Project, Chef Olive and his staff at Kitchen On Fire also volunteer with East Bay organizations like The Arc, St. Vincent De Paul, and Oakland Public Schools.