A recent celebration at the Rochester Council on Aging was planned to recognize Chef Kenneth Vieira for achieving multiple certifications related to his position running the Friends & Family Breakfast Cafe each weekday morning.
But the many visitors enthusiastically cheering him on that day seemed just as happy to applaud Vieira just for being the kind and giving individual he is.
As the chef of the successful breakfast café, located within the COA, Vieira is known for his warmth and willingness to welcome everyone to a café table. The chef sets the tone for the kitchen, and Vieira’s kitchen is fun, said café volunteer Ann Cambra.
Under Vieira’s leadership, she said, “It’s a fun time all the time. It’s a laid-back just-get-it-done atmosphere.”
Vieira starts his weekdays at 5:30 each morning, preparing potatoes for home fries, baking muffins, and getting the pancake mix ready. By 6:30 a.m., people start coming in ready to eat.
Although breakfast isn’t officially served until 7 a.m., Vieira is not a stickler about the time. If he’s there (and he’s never missed a day yet), he’ll welcome whoever comes in and feed them whatever they ask for. (The café has a full breakfast menu available online.)
Regulars generally sit in the same seats each time – choosing a spot at one of the round COA tables that fit about six people. If newcomers appear shy to join the group, Vieira coaxes them in, encouraging them to find a seat.
“We make them feel welcome,” he said. “The whole world’s welcome. We have quite a unique thing going on here.”
In keeping with his fun approach, Vieira is not opposed to menu suggestions and recently said he planned to try a version of barbecue pancakes at the suggestion of a regular breakfast patron.
Vieira is one of the many success stories of the Senior Community Service Employment Program at Coastline Elderly Services which provides funding to retrain workers over the age of 55 as a bridge to continued employment.
His recent certification achievements – becoming certified in CPR & First Aid; Food Safety; ServSafe Food Handler; and Allergen Awareness Training – were one more step to help him get hired officially in the role he currently fills.
SCSEP director Karyl Ryan has only good things to say about the 59-year-old worker who has been an SCSEP worker for four years. “He never missed a day, not one, in four years,” she said.