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Saint John’s Hospice’s Two Culinary Queens Serve up Daily Meals with Love and Energy

While preparing hundreds of meals daily at Saint John’s Hospice (SJH), cooks Rhasheeda Mims and Tah Maddison run a tight kitchen filled with the love of Christ. Their secret ingredients go beyond seasoning to the love and care they put into every dish served.

“We always want to put our love and positive energy into it because we want the individuals who come here to eat to feel comfortable and safe,” said Mims. “Food can represent your behavior and attitude.”

Serving a large population every day is no small task for this pair and their tiny kitchen. Mims and Maddison prepare lunch every weekday from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. for an average of 150 people each day and dinner at 4:00 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for an average of 50 people each day. They pride themselves on the variety of food options for residents and guests. 

“They can get mashed potatoes, lasagna, or baked chicken,” Mims said. “They’ll also get a vegetable, so we make a six-inch tray of vegetables for them. They’re nicely seasoned, but not too much for health reasons.”

Different Journeys for Two Chefs

Although the women took different paths that led them to SJH,  they have one thing in common: a love for cooking. 

Mims found her love for cooking through watching her mom prepare dinners at family gatherings. Eventually, she got to participate.

“As a kid, instead of wanting to go outside and play, I used to sit and watch my family members cook. To me, that was where the excitement was,” she said.

In 2013, she sharpened her skills by taking cuisine lessons at the Jazz Culinary Connection. The  16-week program through the People’s Emergency Center, Rowan House, provided students with the opportunity to learn how to manage a kitchen. Following the program, Mims attended Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK), a 16-week cooking vocational training program that prepares low-income adults for the food industry. While attending courses at PCK, Mims received an internship at SJH and was hired by the ministry shortly after.

“I left a good impression because my teacher kept saying, ‘Girl, they are calling you. They want you back.’ So, I did the paperwork a couple of days before my graduation, and when I graduated, I started work three days later.”

For Maddison, growing up in a single-parent household allowed her to learn how to cook at an early age. From there, she never looked back.

As an adult, Maddison worked for Resources for Human Development, a national human services organization in Philadelphia. It was at Resources for Human Development that she learned about SJH. 

“I came for a part-time job on the weekend and started as an RA,” Maddison said. “I did that for a few months and then transitioned to helping in the kitchen. Then I ended up as a cook for about ten years.”

In 2020, Maddison left SJH to work at the Women of Hope, a ministry of Catholic Social Services of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, before returning in December 2023.

Culinary Alchemy

Damon Cottman, SJH’s Food Service Manager who oversees the operation, can attest to the contributions of Mims and Maddison. Cottman started at SJH in 2016 and left during the pandemic. When he returned to work at SJH in 2023, he reached out to Maddison to ask her to return because of her knowledge of the kitchen and attention to detail. As for Mims, Cottman praised her willingness to take on any task and adapt to different situations. He describes her as a “Swiss Army knife” because she can do so many things around the kitchen without hesitation.

“Tah is like my righthand woman,” Cottman said. “She is an extra extension of me in knowledge, skill, and preparation. We work well together. And Rhasheeda is a do-anything type of person. She will attack whatever obstacle is in front of her with both feet.”

Despite only working together for a short period, Mims and Maddison have a natural chemistry that makes the kitchen run smoothly. 

“She is back like she never left,” Mims said. “We’ve only worked together for a few months, but when we are in the kitchen together, it’s like I’ve known her all along.”

 “Our kitchen is a family. We work well together, help each other, and it’s all love—no drama. The morale is good, and that makes a good kitchen,” Maddison added.

Saint John’s Hospice is a nationally recognized leader in providing essential residential and day services, acting as a beacon of hope for those experiencing homelessness. For more information about volunteering or to make a donation to Saint John’s Hospice, visit