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Magic in the Kitchen: Bayview YMCA's Iron Chef Competition

On Tuesday, March 7, 2017, the Bayview YMCA’s Primed & Prepped: A Hospitality Management/Culinary Arts Mentoring & Job Training Program (P&P) launched their 3rd annual Iron Chef Competition Fundraiser at the Fillmore Heritage Center. The fundraiser allows the program to purchase catering supplies with a goal of enabling expansion towards financial self-sufficiency.  The evening delivered an exciting live showcase of the student’s culinary art skills as they acted as sous chefs to 5 local chefs. The community event was held at the Fillmore Heritage Center (Formerly Yoshi’s) located at 1130 Fillmore St.

“You’re going to see magic in the kitchen tonight,” exclaimed Kelly Armstrong, Program Director and Founder of the Primed and Prepped program, to a dining area full of hungry judges, San Francisco celebrity chefs, YMCA cooking students, and Bayview community members. 

Focused on hospitality management and culinary arts, the Primed & Prepped program at Bayview Hunters Point YMCA is designed to support young men and women of color, ages 14-19, to develop culinary skills and be placed in internships and jobs. This program provides students with the tools to mitigate employment barriers and hone their leadership skills. At the end of every program cycle, the Y’s Iron Chef Competition tests the students on what they have learned.

Kelly’s secret ingredient to success is her program leader, Bayview YMCA resident and Food Network TV celebrity, Chef Yaku Moton-Spruill Kuda.

Standing at 6 feet 9 inches, chef Yaku towers above his students in the kitchen. Born in Inkster, Michigan, Yaku learned the art of the hustle, selling chicken dinners out of his dorm room in college to make money. Yaku draws his food philosophy from his southern and Caribbean heritage, and he specializes in Latin American, stick-to-your-ribs comfort food that’s sharable.

“There is unmatched passion to make change in this program,” said Chef Yaku to the crowd. “Kelly inspired me to find a route for my passion. And it also shows that really tall and really short people can get along!”

Iron Chef Competition

The YMCA of San Francisco Iron Chef Competition puts the things the Primed & Prepped students have learned to the test and divides them into teams with local prestigious chefs. The YMCA students become the sous chefs and the competition awards points to taste, plating and originality, with bonus points going to food handling, organization, cooking technique, and teamwork.

L-R: Tim Shaw, Culinary Instructor, San Francisco State University Hospitality & Tourism Management Program, Ron Ng, Chef Instructor City College of San Francisco Culinary Hospitality Program, Man J. Kim, Lori's Diner/Sears Fine Food, Otilia Mirambeaux, Development Director, Policy Link & Board Member, Kevin Carroll, Executive Director Hotel Council

“Not all of these kids know what they want to do, but they know they want a job,” says Bayview Hunters Point YMCA Associate Executive Director Tacing Parker. “Once in the program, these young kids are seeing the benefits of hard work. They are getting jobs in restaurants and they are getting new opportunities that are opening doors for their future.”

Plate after plate of beautiful bites were brought out to all attendees and judges for tasting. Even though this competition is not taking place in front of video cameras on a big television network, the chefs get highly competitive and the students are focused on leading their team to victory.

L-R: Michael Raub, Executive Chef at Urban Tavern at the Hilton San Francisco, Sous Chef, students Isaac Sattler and Donte Henderson. 

This is the second year chef Michael Raub has won the Bayview Hunters Point YMCA’s Iron Chef Competition. He is the current Executive Chef at Urban Tavern at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square.

The winning dishes were roasted beet poke with puffed wild rice and taro crisps and roasted lamb lion with warm sun chokes salad and English peas with rhubarb salsa verde.

“I am grateful for this program,” says mother Marna Armstead. “This is the kind of experience you want your kids to have.” 

“Congrats to all these kids who have risen above being a product of their environments,” exclaimed Chef Yaku.

Photography by Jon Rendell

Primed & Prepped Photographer: Tonie Brock




Kevin Carroll, Executive Director, Hotel Council
Otilia Mirambeaux, Development Director, Policy Link & Board Member, Bayview YMCA
Man J. Kim, Owner, Lori’s Diner
Ron Ng, Chef Instructor, City College of San Francisco
Chef Tim Shaw, Culinary Instructor, San Francisco State University Hospitality and Tourism Management Program. 


Michael Raub of the Hilton Hotel
Mel Fogata of the Westin St. Francis
Marcelo Salinas of the Park Central Hotel
Oscar Gonzalez of the Fairmont Hotel
Parker Tse of San Francisco Marriott Marquis


Tommy Fulllove, Personality and Senior Sales Manager at the Orchard Hotel San Francisco



Casey Neuburger, Director of Human Resources, Hotel Nikko, Advisory Board Chairperson 
Kevin Carroll, Executive Director, Hotel Council 
Michele Gaul, Regional Director of Human Resources, Fairmont Hotel
Julie Fallon, Director of Human Resources, SPHR, San Francisco Marriott Marquis
Debra Higa, Director of Human Resources, Westin Hotel
Emanuel Brueh, Director of Human Resources, Park Central Hotel
Rashaida Nirobe, President/CEO, Equality and Inclusion in Hospitality, Inc.
John Bernier, Area Director of Human Resources, Hiltons of San Francisco Bay


Lahrul Hayden
Cristian Rodriguez
Isaac Slater
Narelin Morales
Aleja Cobarruviaz
Elanna Lynch
Sonte Rollins
Donte Henderson
Angel Chavez 


Irene Audet, Nina Leareau, Luxury Aprons
Don Brown, Concierge, Nema Apartments
Antoinette Sobalvarro
Mikael Wagner, Promotions West
Jackie Wright, Wright Enterprises


Department of Children Youth and Their Families (DCYF)
Lori's Diner
Comerica Bank
Monetta White,1300 on Fillmore
Andrea Baker, Fillmore Heritage Center
Bi-Rite Market
​Cayson Designs