Thoughts from Dr. Joe: Teen to take the lead as chef in benefit dinner


We had such an awful week. Attempting to come to grips with the school shooting in Saugus, I contemplated prevailing attitudes as to how we view life. What is particularly alarming is how such calamitous events affect the most vulnerable, our youth.

An essential rite of passage is whether a child learns to trust the world or whether they do not. Such an orientation will have much to do with how they perceive life as they grow older.

Even as we reel from such tragedies as experienced last Thursday morning on the Saugus High School campus, we can take solace and hope in knowing there are unheralded endeavors of young people occurring daily. I recently had the opportunity to speak with a young man who is doing good things for others.

As a child, Cormac Murran was inspired by the culinary skills of his mother, Jacklene. “Mom got me into cooking,” he said. “Watching her prepare foods in the kitchen shows how she cares for the family.”

Jacklene Murran taught cooking at St. Bede the Venerable Elementary School in La Cañada, which is where Cormac’s interest and imagination ignited.

Mastery lies on an infinite continuum; subsequently, we’ll never reach the end of our evolution toward excellence. However, we can assure that we are as far along that continuum as circumstance and initiative permit. Integrity and proficiency in one’s skill are not a given and can only be proven over time.

Recently, Cormac, now a teenager, attended the Dublin Cookery School in Ireland.

“Preparing a meal brings people together, it’s communal,” he said. “I enjoy experimenting with foods and exposing friends and families to new tastes and textures.”

I was pleased to see that he understood that food is incidental to the true magic of cooking.

Cormac was involved in St. Bede’s philanthropy, Brothers’ Helpers, a charity that prepares, delivers and serves hot, nutritious dinners to those in need in downtown Los Angeles. Brothers’ Helpers care for the homeless and hungry of skid row.

Cormac’s mission with Brothers’ Helpers prompted the expression of ancient proverbial wisdom, which was remarkably timely and astute: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” This perspective led him toward the Sprouts Cooking Club Chef-in-Training program.

Sprouts’ philanthropy is to invest in the future by investing in the training of youth. Its program offers struggling young adults opportunities to break the cycle of poverty by training them to become chefs and land a job in the restaurant industry. Their students evolved from gangs, jail, single-parent households and foster care. Their Chef-in-Training program has an 86% graduation rate.

Cormac is an ambassador for Sprouts. “I enjoy reaching out to people and helping others learn to help themselves,” he said.

Cormac is orchestrating a dinner fundraiser where he will be the head chef. He has planned a meal that promises to be delicious and culturally intriguing.

For starters he’ll whip up hors d’oeuvres with homemade brown bread and salmon and cream cheese. Also, a squash, ginger and parsnip soup will be served. Shepherd’s pie, a traditional Irish dish made with ground lamb, peas, carrots and topped with a mashed potato crust is the main course. Cormac will also prepare a scrumptious Moroccan tajin, a dish of eggplant, blended vegetables, cinnamon, honey and assorted spices. Dessert is from a French recipe, a passion-fruit mousse, fluffy and airy. Special beans brewed up in a French press will be enjoyed by coffee lovers.

Chef Murran will host this benefit dinner supporting the philanthropy of Sprouts Chef-in-Training at 6:30 p.m. on Nov 30. Contact him for specifics and an e-vite at

It is admirable to view the passions of youth. It is the driving element of purpose. For a young person in possession of passion, labor is not perceived as toil, it is revealed as giving to a greater good.

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