Tampa Bay chef Jaimes Fredlund spends his off hours dishing hot meals for the homeless

He welcomes you to help every Thursday.

click to enlarge Tampa Bay chef Jaimes Fredlund spends his off hours dishing hot meals for the homeless
Photo by Alexandria Jones

Thursdays are what Datz Tampa’s assistant kitchen manager, Jaimes Fredlund, looks forward to every week. It means he can rush home after a long day in the kitchen crafting Willy Wonka-esque dishes to do a little good for others. Community service isn’t new to him, growing up as a boy scout, one of Fredlund’s favorite things to do was assist his elderly neighbors with painting their houses.

“We did a lot of helping out in the community. You do it because you like it and it makes you feel good inside,” he says. 

He makes the drive from South Tampa to Ybor City where he and his wife Johanna have spent the last couple months feeding the homeless at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church, located at 1711 E. 11th Ave. 

“We live in Ybor City, so we’ll go out and walk by Centennial Park. We’ll see [the homeless] gathered around out there and we wanted to do something about it,” Fredlund tells CL.

The occasion is more of a potluck situation, with the hungry crowd ranging between 30-50, the volunteers all bring a dish hefty enough to serve to as many as possible. One of Fredlund’s first dishes was a family recipe of chicken and yellow rice — which ended up being a huge hit and inspiring the volunteers to get creative each week, planning their side dishes according to what “entree” Fredlund is cooking up. 

“They’re trying to get themes, but they just ask me what I’m doing because they want to base what they bring. If I bring Sloppy Joe’s, they’re going to do salads and other sides,” he says. While everyone is in the front serving the food, you’ll find Fredlund in the back preparing the food to be served and washing dishes. He says that doesn’t stop anyone from finding him to say thanks and compliment the food. He enjoys giving Ybor’s homeless a hot, home-cooked meal every week because he’s giving them something to look forward to. 

“I’m a very introverted person. I’m more comfortable in the back of the house and I feel like I make good food for them,” explains Fredlund.

When asked about his political social media posts (including retweets of controversial former Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke who left Twitter “due  to their conservative speech control”) and whether or not Donald Trump’s rhetoric surrounding homelessness bothered him, Fredlund says, “I have no control over that but I will support the president no matter who it is.”

“I don’t agree with everything but I support [the] president 100%,” he adds. “That has nothing to do with what I’m trying to do. I don’t think it should.”

And what he does — Fredlund’s mission to feed the homeless — is a family affair, as Johanna’s mother chips in baking individual bags of baked goods like cookies and muffins.

“She bakes with us, so they’ll always have fresh desserts. Last week, she put brownies, sugar snaps, and cupcakes in little bags. She’s been making them since we started,” he adds. Fredlund says every week he leaves appreciative because he has the opportunity to help contribute quality hot meals to feed hungry mouths.

“They’ll tell me how much it means to them and how much they enjoyed it and that means a lot to me. It makes me feel good because there’s a lot of planning that goes into it.” 

If you want in on the good karma, join the squad from 5-6 p.m. any Thursday. You can bring a dish, or just some helping hands. No need to be a church member to get in on the feel-good vibes, even heathens are welcome.

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