Pictured Above: Chef Bob and apprentice Emily prepare for a cooking demonstration.
PENSACOLA–Working late nights and serving the Sunday brunch crowd, restaurant workers can find it difficult to draw near to God, consistently fellowship with believers and receive encouragement to walk with Christ.
Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola ministers to men and women working in culinary arts through a local chapter of Christian Chefs International. Chef Bob Vaningan, along with his wife, Darlene, and two kitchen employees opened the Pensacola chapter in 2014.
“CCI Pensacola has a culture built around the gospel of Jesus and the opportunity to draw our community closer together,” said Brandon Melton, former chef and attendee.
The ministry provides a monthly Monday evening service open to all chefs, servers, caterers, and others in, or who have previously worked in, the food service industry, and welcomes anyone who enjoys food and would like to attend.
“We ask everyone to invite people when they go into a restaurant and have cards with QR codes that we leave with our servers,” said Chef Vaningan, culinary director of Olive Baptist Catering.
Sixty to 90 people regularly participate in the services where they are provided with a time of nourishing body and soul.
Mike Dimick, military minister at Olive Baptist and chaplain for CCI Pensacola, leads a short Bible devotional while attendees enjoy dinner catered by Olive Baptist Catering.
“I enjoy this ministry as it allows us to offer a small service for those who can’t make a regular Sunday morning. The devotions always point to hospitality and the gospel,” said Dimick.
Each service concludes with a cooking demonstration and tasting. “Through leading demonstrations, I have improved my cooking skills, exercised creativity, worked on my public speaking and have been impacted by all the chefs and people I get to meet,” said Emily Bazis, apprentice to Chef Vaningan.
‘I enjoy this ministry as it allows us to offer a small service for those who can’t make a regular Sunday morning. The devotions always point to hospitality and the gospel.’
Through the ministry, several in attendance have made professions of faith as well as doors have been opened to minister and preach at funerals and cater weddings.
“Being surrounded by a community of people who love God and food is a ministry in itself,” said Morgan Vaningan, culinary instructor at George Stone Technical College. “We pray together and share advice that, in turn, has helped me share so much knowledge and love with my students.”