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Soup kitchen is bustling

The chef and executive director at Someone Cares weren't sure they would have enough food, but last-minute donations poured.

November 27, 2013|By Jeremiah Dobruck
  • Chef Lorrie Sanchez steps into her role as the official turkey cook for the Thanksgiving dinner at the Someone Cares Soup Kitchen in Costa Mesa on Wednesday. Sanchez will cook four turkeys at one time that will feed hundreds of people who count on a Thanksgiving dinner.
Chef Lorrie Sanchez steps into her role as the official… (Don Leach / Daily…)

In the back of Someone Cares Soup Kitchen on the day before Thanksgiving, Lorrie Sanchez rasped out instructions to two volunteers straining out turkey stock for the stuffing.

For more than a dozen years, Sanchez has run a kitchen without a regular staff, without recipes and without knowing what ingredients she'll have the next day.

But she does know that hundreds of people will be waiting outside on 19th Street, expecting something to eat.

On Wednesday, she geared up for Thanksgiving dinner by overseeing the preparation of tubs of homemade stuffing, vats of sweet potatoes and more than 40 turkeys.

"We use all fresh ingredients, no canned ingredients at all," said Sanchez, who has been the chef at the Costa Mesa nonprofit for almost 14 years.

As Shannon Santos, executive director at Someone Cares, puts it: Sanchez is the kitchen's MacGyver, a reference to the long-canceled television show about a resourceful secret agent.

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"She's really magical," Santos said.

The two have been best friends since they were in fifth grade in Huntington Beach.

On Tuesday, the two women weren't sure how Thanksgiving dinner would come together.

For some reason, only five or six families had donated turkeys when usually the fridge is bursting before the holiday.

Santos and Sanchez turned to television, asking a CBS News reporter to let people know the kitchen needed donations. A segment Tuesday night told Orange and Los Angeles counties that Someone Cares was short some Thanksgiving essentials and that Sanchez wouldn't mind having a few more hams to serve.

"Next thing you know, 100 hams came in," Sanchez said. "I'm not even exaggerating."

The soup kitchen could have used a valet parking service Wednesday morning for the Land Rovers and BMWs lined up to drop off food, Sanchez said, before she tied back her wild red and black hair and dove back into prep work with potatoes stacked around her.

Someone Cares expects 500 to 600 people to show up for the turkey dinner and relies on 140 to 150 volunteers about every year.

By early November, it almost always has its volunteer positions filled, and more apply every day.

It's the rest of the days — the nonprofit serves one meal a day — when the chef is constantly reinventing dishes or remixing ingredients.

"I so pulled off a miracle today, I've got to say," Sanchez said Wednesday.

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