Chef Jacky Robert & Martha Castano, PhD : Co-Founders of 501(c)3 OnBoardForKids.org
Chef Jacky Robert & Martha Castano’s BIO
About Martha Castano
Martha Castano was born and raised in Circasia, Colombia. She was inspired by her Aunt Eloisa who sent her to the United States to further her education. Martha finished her Ph.D. in Latin American Literature at Yale University, where she met her husband, Pracha Eamranond, MD. They became so passionate about Argentine tango that they moved to Buenos Aires. Martha and Pracha relocated to Boston where they started the Harvard School of Public Health Tango Club. Martha currently is on faculty at Boston University and Regis College. She founded the Sunantha Camila Foundation which aims to help feed and educate children in Colombia.
About Chef Jacky Robert
Maître Cuisinier de France since 1989. See www.jackyrobert.com for full details.
2005 until now, Chef-Co Owner of four “Petit Robert Bistro” restaurants in Boston.
2004, Culinary Director at Chatham Bars Inn, Cape Cod
2001 to 2003, Executive-Chef at Lydia Shire’s Locke-Ober Restaurant in Boston
1996 to 2001, Executive-Chef at Maison Robert in Boston.
1985 to 1995 Chef-Owner of Amelio’s**** in San Francisco. 1976-1985 Executive-Chef at Ernie’s ***** in San Francisco.
Education and Highlights:
Associate of Science in Culinary Arts
Safety Food Service Certification
Toque d’Argent des Maîtres Cuisiniers de France 2007
Featured in the PBS series THE GREAT CHEFS OF SAN FRANCISCO
Featured speaker with James Beard and Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher at the first graduation of the California Culinary Academy in 1978.
Taught at cooking schools such as: the California Culinary Academy, Tante Marie, Draeger’s, Le Cordon Rouge, Cordon Bleu, Boston University, Boston Learning Society.
Prepared Robert Mondavi and Baron Philipp De Rothschild’s Opus One 1st release inaugural dinner.
Founder of Chefs Feed Kids feeding program in the Philippines, a 501C3 organization
In the Spotlight Interview
1. Please share with us the inception of OnBoardForKids.org.
Martha Castaño, PhD, is a part time lecturer at Boston University and mother of three lovely children. She is married to Dr. Pracha Eamranond, whom she met while “tango-ing” while they were both studying at Yale University. When Martha and Pracha moved to Boston after dancing tango for the year in Buenos Aires, they began the Harvard School of Public Health Tango Club, where they teach tango and organize dance events.
That is how French Master Chef and owner of Petit Robert Bistro (Boston), Jacky Robert, met Martha. He was a student in her class.
Jacky and Martha soon realized they had something in common. They both had non-profit foundations benefiting poor children.
Martha’s “Sunantha Camila Foundation” is building a school in Colombia for some of the most underprivileged children of Circasia, Colombia (www.sunanthacamila.org). Jacky, with “Chefs Feed Kids”, is feeding street kids in Dasmarinas, Philippines (www.chefsfeedkids.org).
Jacky was seduced by Martha’s compassion, energy and dedication to giving poor children in Colombia the opportunity to get an education. They both decided to work together to give less fortunate kids around the world a chance toward a successful future.
2. Take us through a typical day, start to finish.
Around 6-7 am, the kids stir us from sleep. We embrace them until all five of us are ready to hop out of bed and have breakfast together. I prepare arepas with queso fresco (a traditional Colombian starter) for the kids.
We read to the children, working on math, art, and language. Our children are trilingual (Spanish from Mom, Thai from Dad). We then send them off to school or to their summer activities.
I go for a long meditative walk usually from 9-10am.
I later devote myself to one of my passions: gardening. The whole process of planting, cleaning, and restructuring the garden are the same processes as creating and maintaining a non-profit organization, which requires constant nurturing.
In the late morning or early afternoon, I’m off to Boston University to teach Spanish classes or to give private lessons. In the late afternoon, I engage in networking with coffee or lunch appointments with friends and other supporters of On Board for Kids or Eloisa de Gardel (my clothing line that raises funds to helping sustain my non-profit organization Sunantha Camila Foundation). During this time, I also make calls/emails to Colombia to organize school-related projects (contacting architect/engineers, hiring staff, working with staff to interview and communicate with families of potential students).
I am also taking my children to and from activities (swimming, music, ballet, language lessons).
In the evening, I generally prepare a home-cooked dinner. Afterward, we put the kids to bed with nighttime reading favorites. Also in the late evenings, my husband and I practice, teach, and dance tango. We usually have a glass of wine to strategize for On Board for Kids, Eloisa de Gardel, Sunantha Camila Foundation, and family projects.
At 6am, with my friend Gabo and his driver (driving in the Philippine is dangerous and almost an impossible task), we go early to the market to buy food for 50 kids. Their favorite food is spaghetti with mushroom sauce but Gabo thinks we cannot always give them pasta. Gabo takes his “chef du jour” role seriously. He wants the kids to eat a balanced diet. Today, we will buy Bungus, which is a local fish that is full of bones but inexpensive. We cannot spend more than $1 per kids. At the same market, we find fresh vegetables. The rice merchant has a deal today and we buy 50 pounds. Bananas are always a good source of vitamins and the kids like that because it’s something they can stick in their pocket for an afternoon snack.
Their lunch will be their only meal today.
We need to be at the school, with the food, at 11 am. There is no time to spare.
At 9am, we are back in Gabo’s penthouse. His employees are going to help us prepare the lunch for the kids. The fish is going to be fried, the vegetables washed and boiled and the rice steamed in the giant rice cooker we purchased the first day of this crazy project…. After tasting everything, Gabo is satisfied with the outcome. He thinks the kids will love the fish and rice for a change.
At 10am the food is ready to be boxed in the plastic containers and we drive to the school right away.
At 11am, we arrive. We are on time!
When we arrive, 50 tiny faces are looking at the window and greeting us with a huge smile. Joyce Tuazon, the teacher, calls for recess.
The starving kids are lining up and get their turn to the boxes. Joyce , many times, told me than before our program, it was so hard to teach the kids on an empty stomach. Eagerly, the children pull the lids and dig excitedly into the food with their forks. A few are using their hand. Gabo noticed most of the kids do not eat the fish. Our “chef du jour ” is “touché”. There are too many bones they complain…Kids will always be kids.
At noon, we are leaving the school. The dense population all over the street makes it difficult to drive back. Because there are no red lights at intersections, the flow of cars is continuous. Many times, there are accidents with moms and their kids trying to cross the street. Our driver says he could not stop because the vehicles behind us would crash into us.
At 1:00pm, after a quick lunch, we have a meeting with Jenny Barzaga, the mayor of Dasmarinas. Jenny is a pretty 40 years old Filipina. She is married to a congressman. She is behing our program and wants to know our progress.
At 3:00pm, we are learning that one of the kids was hospitalized because of Dengue feaver. In the Philippines, you need to come up with money first if you want to be accepted for health care. We unanimously volunteer to pay the hospital for this child’s care.
At 5pm, we are in Manila’s China Town buying school supplies for Joyce. She mentioned that she had no more chalk to write on the black board. Also, she needed paper because the students were writing on scrap paper and in small characters to save space. The river running near the store stinks. The water is thick with excrements and pollution. I am very happy that the shopping did not take too long.
At 7:00pm, we are having dinner and decide that we will prepare Chicken Adobo the next day for the kids. I know they will like that better than the fish with bones.
3. What was the best advice you received as you created OnBoardForKids.org?
The most important advice I’ve received has been to find novel ways to develop a community of supporters for On Board for Kids. Luckily, most people identify easily with our mission to help impoverished children who live in areas where social determinants create obstacles for growth, including education, nutrition, and appropriate living conditions. We are able to recruit help through networking by word of mouth, dancing/social events, our own educational activities, and social media.
“Do not get discouraged and never give up” is the advice my friend Laurence Ligier told me when I first started “ChefsFeedKids”. Laurence has been doing humanitarian work in the Philippines for 20 years. She recognizes with great sadness that the situation in the Philippines has gotten worst. The more we do, the more there is to do, given the immense poverty.
4. What are your strategies for building awareness of OnBoardForKids.org for the short term and the long term?
Our strategy for OnBoardForKids is to get National. Next year, we are planning to do a fundraiser in San Francisco. Our strength is that 100% of the funds collected goes to the children. There are talks in charitable work that leaders of these organizations are collecting fat salaries and the beneficiaries end up with less than 30% of the money donated. We want to include more small associations of disadvantage countries as beneficiaries of our fundraisers.
5. Tell us about your upcoming Sunset Cruise on the Charles River on September 20th, 5:30 pm-9 pm.
The cuisine will be prepared by Chef Jacky Robert. Live music, a dance show, DJ, Buffet Dinner, a complimentary 1st drink and lots of fun, are included in the $150.00 ticket. It’s all in the name of supporting children by providing them with good, balanced nutrition and a solid education.
There are many ways for corporations and individuals to support our cruise through sponsorships. Please visit http://www.onboardforkids.org for more information.
6. What is your proudest achievement?
One of my proudest achievements thus far has been finishing my PhD in contemporary Latin American literature. Despite moments of great creativity during my doctoral research, there were many more moments of unproductivity and writer’s block. Completing my PhD at Yale University was an arduous feat that required enormous discipline and perseverance.
My most recent proud achievement has been building a school for underprivileged children in the town where I was born and raised in Circasia, Colombia. These children are at high risk for malnutrition, violence, drug addiction, as well as physical, sexual, and verbal abuse. The school I built will provide an opportunity to learn about life at an early age by providing basics needs as well hope for new generations.
I am most proud of being able to motivate people to support our cause.
7. What are Your Top 3 book recommendations?
My favorite books:
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes: This canonical work represents a juxtaposition between reality embodied by Sancho Panza and the fantasy perspective of Don Quixote. One needs the groundedness of the world while it is also imperative to keep the dreams and hopes that motivate us toward lifelong goals.
Pablo Neruda’s poetry: The sensitivity of a poet is critical to a philosophical and emotional understanding of the world. In this case, Neruda’s rooted awareness of humanity, nature, and social equality teaches us how we can fulfill our lives through theory and practice.
The Little Prince by Saint-Exupéry: This childhood classic on the surface is a tale of the world seen through the eyes of a child and the unlimited capacity of creativity without constraints. This is in contrast to the narrow adult perspective, which is governed by structure, reality, and rigidity. This ageless book contains a deep, philosophical analysis of humankind and the different elements that imprison us (envy, power, loneliness, debauchery).
My favorite books-
– Princesse des Rues (Laurence Ligier)
– Escofier cook book
I quit school when I was 14 years old. When I read, it is to learn a new language (Tagalog and Spanish right now).
8. What charitable causes are most meaningful to you and why?
Partners in Health: Paul Farmer’s work around the world has highlighted health inequalities and the tremendous amount of work required to tackle the most basic health needs from Boston to Haiti to elsewhere around the globe dealing with devastating effect of structural violence leading.
Cameleon association http://www.cameleon-association.org/ I cooked the dinner for a prominent Filipino at the exclusive Manila Polo Club last year. I also went to teach cooking to the girls of Cameleon for 10 days.
9. Who has been most influential toward your accomplishments with OnBoardForKids.org?
My husband has been the strongest force behind On Board for Kids, with his unconditional support for the organization. He has created the backbone for the day-to-day operations of event planning, fundraising, and his personal financial commitment.
Martha and Pracha: without them nothing would have been possible. Pracha works in the shadow and is so humble.
My Mother, Maryvonne Robert. After my Father passed away, since she had never been in a school or learned a trade, she went out to clean homes and raised the 3 of us with great success. She will be 90 years old in December.
10. What is your advice for entrepreneurs who are 1-3 months away from launching their non-profit organization?
It is crucial to have a very clear vision of your mission and goals. To implement this, one needs a strong board of directors in order to develop a steady stream of fundraising contributions.
The accounting of a 501 C 3 is very complex. Don’t let yourself get behind. Hire a CPA. It is money well spent.