When she saw a need in her beloved community, Imani Gros said she had no choice but to do what she could to help. If you were to ask anyone who knows her, they’ll tell you what she can definitely do is cook.
Gros, a Boutte native and resident, said she emptied her savings account to start cooking and serving free meals to the community when the coronavirus pandemic shut down schools.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and children today don’t have the same sense of a ‘community family’ as I did growing up,” she said. “I hope to instill that feeling and bring that back.”
What started out as serving 100 meals to mainly children has grown into serving over 200 meals twice a week to people of all ages.
“I’m known for being able to cook, so once word got out everyone was coming over and I was happy to serve them all,” she said.
After she decided to offer the meals for the first time, monetary donations started pouring in from family and friends, some of whom are also helping Gros serve the meals.
“I have family that will deliver the meals if needed, but most of them are received in the drive up and pick up method,” she said, adding she learned how to cook from her grandmothers.
“My whole family cooks,” Gros said. “My great grandmother has articles around her house from when she used to cook for Jazz Fest, and my grandmother has a really well-known catering business … it was kind of embedded in me to cook.”
Gros said she hopes the people who receive her meals feel the love that she has for cooking and for her community, and that her own 9-year-old son Bryce is learning a first-hand lesson as he watches his family serve others.
“I hope he learns to be a selfless and caring person,” she said. “I’m thankful that God saw fit for me to have this gift … It’s truly a blessing to be a blessing to others and I know God has bigger things in store for me.”
Gros said she plans to expand her own cooking business, Mani Meals, in 2020, as well as enroll in culinary art classes so she can become a trained chef. She said she would love to eventually have a restaurant where she can serve her family’s signature recipes and her own seafood dishes.
Whatever the future holds, however, Gros one thing is certain: she hopes to always be able to provide meals for those who need them.
“I hope to be doing this well after this pandemic is over,” she said. “I’d love for it to become the thing to do … for kids to come and get an after-school meal and feel safe hanging out.”
For more information on meal delivery or pick-up, or to learn more about donating, contact Gros at 504-453-8869.