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Karma Kitchen Chicago Opens With a Baam!

After approximately 1 year of planning, preparing, and putting forth full efforts to bring Karma Kitchen to the great city of Chicago, the time has finally come!  On Sunday, July 11, 2010, Karma Kitchen Chicago opened its doors in collaboration with Klay Oven Restaurant located in the River North area of the Windy City. 
Prior to the launch, the Karma Kitchen team held a volunteer orientation at the restaurant.  The majority of the volunteers had never even experienced a Karma Kitchen before, but as the orientation came to an end, it was apparent that the synergies began to manifest themselves and that the Karma Kitchen concepts were coming to light.  Although a Karma Kitchen opening day is slightly different from the opening day for a baseball team, the team still had the same goal: to make sure we hit it out of the park for all of our guests!    
On launch day, as the team met that morning, the energies were high and the excitement obvious.  One amazing thing after another was set in motion.  Seeing the amazing work product of the committees and what they were able to accomplish in just a few days was astounding.  Within the first 30 minutes of opening our doors, the entire restaurant was almost filled.  The hosts up front held their own with the swarm of guests coming in, some knowing about Karma Kitchen, others hearing about it for the first time.  The servers were running all over the place, but gracefully juggling all of their tables and helping to ensure that their guests were having a positive experience.  One gentleman commented about the professionalism of the team and the manner in which Karma Kitchen was run.  Others spoke to the underlying ideals surrounding the gift economy and the experiment in generosity.  Finally, some of the guests were surprised by the fact that the volunteers had their own professions and were doing this without any expectation of receiving something in return. 
During the first two hours of Karma Kitchen, the volunteers demonstrated that when everyone is volunteering for the same reason and when that reason stems from wanting to push their own generosity to the limit, amazing things can happen!  Special kudos to the Outreach Team who did such a great job of spreading the word about our launch.  Fearing that the World Cup would prevent people from coming in, the Outreach Team even turned this into a positive message:  "Come to Karma Kitchen and then go to Watch the World Cup!"  
Another kudos to the Ambiance Team who did an amazing job of transforming Klay Oven into Karma Kitchen.  Complete with the KK experience were menus, note pads on each table with a greeting message to the guests, laminated quote sheets on each table, signs, kindness table decorations, and more.  The restaurant looked great!  One of the volunteers put together a playlist of local Chicago artists to play during Karma Kitchen hours (one artist actually came as a guest and was thrilled to hear his music playing across the restaurant)!   
Though we learned a lot about the process and came out with a few things to change for next time, perhaps the most valuable lesson came in the form of a deeper understanding of ourselves and giving without expectation.  Although success is defined in many different ways, we know that our opening day was a success because we served over 100 guests, created a unique community experience, and approached the day wholeheartedly with a smile. 
The Karma Kitchen Chicago team would like to give a BIG shout-out to Karma Kitchen Berkeley and Karma Kitchen DC for their utmost support, assistance.  This all would not have been possible without them!  As one volunteer so eloquently put it, "We carried KK Berkeley and KK DC with us with every thali that we served."
Needless to say, the Karma Kitchen Chicago team truly hit it out of the park on opening day!

--Anish Parikh on Jul 14, 2010

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