Chef Allan Katz’s career in the hospitality industry has been one of shared experiences, the passing of knowledge to the next generation, and the creation of communities. As director of food services at Community Based Services and the culinary mastermind behind not-for-profit Good Reasons™, a dog treat company, the combination of creating meals while benefiting those in need is something he gets to do every day.
Community Based Services, Inc. (CBS) is a not-for-profit organization that provides the highest level of individualized care for people with autism and developmental disabilities in home and community-based settings. Based out of North Salem, NY the organization serves Westchester and Dutchess County with six Intermediate Care Facilities and three Individualized Residential Alternatives and provides the following services: Medicaid Service Coordination, Day Habilitation Without Walls, Community Habilitation, Respite, and Prevocational and Supported Employment. One of the key tenets of CBS is to provide services to individuals that give them the opportunity to fully participate within their community in a manner that fosters personal relationships, independence, choice, fun, and positive individualized outcomes.
Allan was the executive chef and owner of the popular Allyn’s Restaurant & Café in Millbrook, NY for 20 years. During that time he utilized local produce from the surrounding Hudson Valley on his menu, taught culinary classes, served as an externship site for CIA students, and provided catering services. Vicki Sylvester, CEO of Community Based Services, was a frequent customer and Allan catered all the organizations corporate events. When he sold the restaurant in 2006, Allan approached Sylvester, suggesting efficiencies to CBS’ food purchasing and menu development. “Each house was shopping for itself with menus approved by a nutritionist. I said it would be better to have a central location so they could buy wholesale and prepare menus in one location,” Allan recalls. “I found a warehouse, built a commercial kitchen, and designed the recipes. By purchasing wholesale goods, CBS saves money and allows direct care providers more time with residents. All dietary plans are fat and salt free, and made for convenience. Now, all the houses eat off the same seasonal, four-week rotating menu.” As an extension of the educational services CBS offers, a new farming operation has been established in partnership with Briggs Farm in Pleasant Valley, NY where residents work tending and harvesting organic, pesticide free produce earmarked for the group homes.
The creation of Good Reasons™ came about when the state of New York asked its network of providers to help create jobs for people with disabilities. Initially called Three Brown Dog Barkery LLC, named after Sylvester’s trio of Springer Spaniels, the name was changed to Good Reasons, to better reflect the company’s overall mission.
With production facilities in Brewster and Poughkeepsie that employ 10 people, the organization has grown steadily since its launch on July 1, 2014. Good Reasons has partnered with more than 54 retail locations to offer their all-natural dog treats including 120 Unleashed by PETCO’s retail stores.
Allan developed the recipes after considerable research about what’s healthy for dogs to consume. The treats have all human-grade ingredients like herbs and spices, vegetables, coconut oil, barley and rice flour, peanut butter, green peas, and blueberries, geared toward keeping a dogs diet healthy “We want to let our customers know that by buying our dog treats their pets get to experience the best, tasty treats on the market while helping people with autism and other special needs achieve independence through the power of an integrated workplace,” Allan says. “There’s no profit for anybody, if we do have a surplus it goes back into the program. It’s a win-win situation for everyone involved—a high quality product with a high quality mission.”
Allan’s own culinary journey has been rewarding and fulfilling. “I got a strong foundation of product knowledge from the CIA,” he says. “To this day I look back on my education, which exposed me to all aspects of the culinary world, and know it gave me the confidence to experiment on my own and adapt to current trends. Certainly having the CIA on my résumé helped me land positions that furthered my career and ultimately led to owning my own restaurant. Plus, I had the opportunity to hire CIA students like Ben Pollinger, now the executive chef at Oceana Restaurant in New York City. It’s always thrilling for me to see former employees develop out in the world. In a way, I’m passing the torch to a whole new generation of chefs.”