Partner Spotlight: Chef Laurent

The Kitchen is always a little bit warmer when Chef Laurent is in it—and not just because of the delicious food he’s cooking.

Laurent Zirotti is simply—and affectionately—known as “Chef Laurent” around Second Harvest. You’d never know he is a James Beard Award nominee, one of the most prestigious awards in the culinary world, from the way he bounces around The Kitchen talking to class participants as if they were guests in his home for dinner. But if you taste his food, you won’t be surprised. His cooking skills even earned him a spot on the food network show “Guy’s Grocery Games” last September, and he generously earmarked his potential prize money for Second Harvest to help feed people facing hunger in his community.

The owner of two restaurants, the high-end Fleur de Sel in Post Falls and Fleur de Sel Creperie in Spokane, Chef Laurent has a lot on his plate. But that doesn’t stop him from helping others fill their own plates with fresh, delicious food made from scratch.

You would think that a chef and restaurant owner would see teaching others how to cook as a threat to his business. But Laurent sees it as a way to give back to his community.

Laurent learned about Second Harvest’s Kitchen from his wife and business partner Patricia, who attended a restaurant week event in The Kitchen three years ago. They knew right away that connecting with Second Harvest to help raise funds for hungry families and to teach cooking classes was a wonderful way to give back. Laurent and Patricia felt a personal connection to Second Harvest’s mission: teaching people facing food insecurity how to cook with accessible, healthy and, of course, tasty ingredients. “I come from a very blue-collar family where we didn’t have much,” said Laurent. “But we always had good food on the table—all the time, any time. I had a mom that was really inspired to make good food, healthy food, with nothing. And I thought, ‘Well, why not teach these people to cook the same way that my mom did?’”

Since then, Laurent has taught one free Community Class each month in The Kitchen, and spots in his class go as quickly as dinner reservations at a fancy restaurant. Once people experience a class with Chef Laurent, they come back not only for the delicious recipes but also for the way he makes The Kitchen feel like home. “Laurent’s passion to help those in need in this community has a deep and lasting emotional impact on our clients who attend his free cooking classes,” said Emily Kanally, director of kitchen and nutrition programs at Second Harvest. “He always treats our clients with the utmost respect and brings them a sense of belonging and fellowship with each encounter.”

“I just want to show them that with a few pointers, they can do something themselves, at home, and share it with people that they love. And you’re going to love it because you made it,” said Laurent. “I want to show them that with what they do, they give, and they share their love through their food.”

Thank you, Chef Laurent, for sharing your love with Second Harvest and the community. If you want to help someone who helps others, treat yourself to some delicious French cuisine at one of Laurent’s restaurants.