By Bill Bracken
My story began at a very early age. Growing up in a small town in Kansas, there are no secrets.
I was the youngest of four kids with three older sisters, and life was very hard emotionally.
There was nothing terribly earth-shattering about my childhood, but for years my entire life was focused on hearing just two things from my father – “I love you,” and “I am proud of you.”
I now know that he is and always was both of these things, but was not a man who could or would share that.
It was that deep desire for love and acceptance that drove me and my career as a chef.
God has blessed me with a natural ability in the kitchen and I easily excelled in my early jobs, vocational school and eventually my studies at the Culinary Institute of America.
Graduating in the top of my class, I landed a job at the Four Seasons Hotel Las Colinas, with the premier hotel company in the world.
It was during this time that I developed a deep anger. An anger from my childhood fuelled and drove me.
Alongside that anger was a deep need to be accepted and a fear of financial insecurity.
While I was raised in a Judeo-Christian home with core values and morals, those were tossed to the wind as I pursued fame, fortune and success as a chef in the #1 hotel in America, the Peninsula Beverly Hills.
Life eventually caught up with me in the form of a divorce, a move back to Orange County and the hotel I first worked at almost 20 years earlier when I moved to L.A.
In 2007, my then girlfriend, Molly, who is now my wife, ended our relationship and I was devastated. Devastated is actually a gross understatement.
It was then that I found my way back to church and got my life right with God.
Molly and I eventually got married and had a son, Lukas, who was welcomed home by my two older children, Jacob and Jessica.
While life was great, there was still one demon in my closet – the fear of money, or the fear of not having money.
God wasn’t done with me and in 2011 I was thrust into the lines of the unemployed.
While losing a job was always my biggest and worst fear, I learnt very quickly that it was the most liberating thing I had ever experienced.
After years in the high pressure, high stakes world of corporate luxury hospitality, I was set free.
2009-2011 was an ugly time in the hotel world and I watched a lot of good people lose their jobs.
I watched them struggle to find jobs, pay their rent and mortgage and just put food on the table.
When I lost my job, I knew that God was in this and I was being called to feed.
While I ran the other direction for a couple of years, He kept pulling me back, and Bracken’s Kitchen was born.
Bracken's Kitchen is a non-profit organization started by Bill Bracken as a way to help fight food insecurity. Through his regular work with the Orange Country Rescue Mission as a guest chef, he knew he had to find a way to make an innovative change in how to feed the hungry over a large area who may be unable to travel regularly to one base location. His answer came in the form of a travelling food truck, where his organization feeds their clients nutritious and high quality meals chosen from a menu and fun atmosphere, filled with music and set up tables and chairs. Collaborating with other non-profits like the Illumination Foundation and Miracles for Kids, has helped Bracken's team instantly determine where there is the most need and impact lives
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