Mike Curtin: DC Central Kitchen feeds people — and strengthens the community

After graduating from Williams College in 1986 with a BA in Religion, Mike lived and worked in Osaka, Japan as a teacher, copywriter, and bartender at his neighborhood pub. Upon returning to the US, Mike began a 20-year career in the hospitality business, which included owning and operating his own restaurant, The Broad Street Grill in Falls Church, Virginia, before joining DC Central Kitchen (DCCK).

When Mike joined DCCK in 2004, he drew on his experiences as an entrepreneur in the restaurant business to expand the Kitchen’s social enterprise program from less than $500,000 in 2005 to over $7 million in 2014. Under his leadership, DCCK’s social enterprise portfolio expanded from a small catering outfit to include a full-service catering, contract meals, locally-sourced, scratched-cooked school meals and a wholesale program that delivers fresh produce and healthy snacks to corner stores in Washington, DC’s food deserts.

Social Enterprise accounts for well over 50% of its total operating budget every year and since 2010, it has generated over $37 million for DCCK. As a result of this growth, the Kitchen now employs over 182 people, including 77 graduates of the Kitchen’s nationally recognized Culinary Job Training Program, which trains formerly incarcerated, addicted, homeless or chronically unemployed individuals. Since the 2008 recession, the Kitchen’s graduates have earned over $8.5 million in wages and have less than 5% recidivism.

These programs, as well as many others, continue to grow as a result of DCCK’s Nutrition Lab facility. This facility was funded and launched under Mike’s leadership and has allowed DCCK to take on more contracts, rapidly increase investments in purchasing from local farms, and improve production efficiency. Additionally, the lessons learned at the Nutrition Lab are helping to improve the production and distribution of the 5,000 meals DCCK provides each day to social service agencies throughout the community.

Mike’s speaking engagements have included the Social Enterprise World Forum, EO Global Universities, Partnership for a Healthier America Conference, and National Geographic Live. He has also been a featured speaker at Georgetown University, the Yale Sustainable Food Program, Williams College, the Darden School of Business and many other academic institutions across the country.

Mike is a chair emeritus of the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington and a Board member for The Common Market in Philadelphia. He was an advisory board for the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School and currently sits on the advisory boards of DC Greens, Real Food for Kids and Catalyst Kitchens and is a member of the Leadership Council of DC Hunger Solutions.

Mike was honored in 2010 with the Gelman, Rosenberg & Freedman Excellence in Chief Executive Leadership (EXCEL) Award from the Center for Nonprofit Advancement. In 2011, he was awarded the Pedro Arrupe Award by Gonzaga College High School, his alma mater, in recognition of his work with DC Central Kitchen. Mike was previously honored by Gonzaga College High School with the St. Aloysius Medal. He was recognized by the Ignatian Volunteer Corps with the Della Strada Award for his commitment to the Jesuit ideals of social justice. In 2015 he received the Community Impact Award from the International Association of Culinary Professionals and in 2016 he was honored with the Bicentennial Medal from his alma mater, Williams College, the highest honor the college bestows on its alumni.

The Kitchen has received numerous accolades under Mike’s guidance, including: The Mayor’s Environmental Excellence Award, the Washington Business Journal’s Green Business Award for Innovation, The DC Chamber of Commerce 2012 and Community Impact Award; and DCCK’s social enterprise was named one of the top 10 social enterprise business in the world by the founder of the Social Enterprise World Forum.

Mike lives with his wife, Maureen, and their three children, Maeve, Michael III and Ciara, in Falls Church, VA.