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Affordable KIT’s Kitchen offers valuable work experience for youths

KIT’s Kitchen looks and runs like any other restaurant. Inside, there are booths, bright-green walls and friendly servers showcasing the menu.

But this isn’t just any restaurant. It’s an experimental nonprofit eatery designed to help youths gain hospitality industry experience and serve affordable meals to the community.

Nothing on the menu, which features French, Italian, American, Asian and Mexican cuisine, costs more than $10. That includes alcoholic drinks and items such as quiche Florentine, ahi tuna tartare and escargot.

“KIT’s Kitchen is a restaurant that’s for everyone,” co-owner Chanthy Walsh said. “Whether they have deep pocketbooks or not, anyone can afford a great meal. At the same time, we market just a little above the food cost to pay for rent and utilities, and whatever profit we do make goes back to helping youths.”

Walsh and her husband, Tim, also own Essence and Herbs and Sonrisa Grill at Lake Las Vegas. The Walshes use the profits from their restaurants to operate KIT’s Kitchen, which is at 2021 W. Sunset Road and open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

KIT’s occupies the space that had been Bernard’s Bistro. The Walshes took over the bistro in April and renamed it CB’s Legacy, but when business didn’t go as well as planned, they decided to transform the restaurant into KIT’s Kitchen in November.

The venue goes hand in hand with their nonprofit Kids in Transition Foundation, which opened in February to help underprivileged youths through meals, scholarships, mentoring and financial aid. The foundation has provided roughly 1,000 meals to students and parents, which they learn about mainly through word of mouth. The KIT’s name comes from the foundation.

Chanthy Walsh said the restaurant, staffed by four full-time paid staff members and eight volunteers, costs about $5,000 a month to operate.

“We didn’t just want to open up a burger joint. We want people to eat here and go ‘wow,’” Tim said. “We have super-talented chefs who not only focus on taste but also on the presentation of the food.”

Beyond the fare, the Walshes teach youths who are willing to volunteer and need work experience about the hospitality industry.

“I eventually want to be a server, and this is good place to gain those skills,” said volunteer Chelsea Geary, 25. “It’s not a fast-paced environment, and people are more than willing to help me learn.”

Walsh’s past inspired her to start the not-for-profit restaurant. She said she survived the Khmer Rouge period in Cambodia during the 1970s by hiding 10 weeks in the forest and living in a refugee camp in Thailand for almost three years. She and her family were given refugee status in the United States in 1976, but two of her brothers died in the war.

She believes she is blessed to be alive and said she embarked on the nonprofit venture to give other people a second chance at life. She hopes to inspire youths to succeed.

“I was homeless once upon a time,” Walsh said. “I used to have everything and I lost it all, but I was given a second chance to succeed and it’s great to give back.

“I’ll work all day and all night because I really think I’ve found my calling,” Walsh said. “Kids are the future of our country and if we can help just one kid succeed in life, then it makes all of the hard work worth it.”

Contact Sandy Lopez at slopez@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4686. Follow @JournalismSandy on Twitter.

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