Culinary Arts for the Common Good


By Bavani Purushothaman, photography by Celia Southcombe

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give,” said Winston Churchill.  

Create Common Good’s Executive Chef, Brent Southcombe, is living proof of the power of giving. For the past five years, Southcombe has captained a specially designed food service job-training program to help people with barriers to employment achieve confidence, self-sufficiency, and financial independence. His trainees include refugees, women from the Women’s and Children’s Alliance, and people who have been incarcerated. He says, “I don’t like to use the term ‘at risk.’ We all suffer at some point. I see this as a strength and not a weakness. Character is shaped in these times.”

Southcombe’s week is a combination of training and advocating for his graduates.   He calls himself a “mobile resume.”  While connecting with potential employers to place the recent graduates in jobs, he doesn’t forget his past graduates.  He keeps in touch with them to ensure that success is mapping their journey and their hard work is being rewarded.

Southcombe was born and brought up in Taranaki, New Zealand.  He comes from a dairy farming background.  A life-long passion for cooking with interesting, fresh flavors was instilled when he first started cooking with his mother as a young boy.

At the age of 20, Southcombe fell in love with the warm water during a surfing vacation in Australia and decided to call it home.  He had tried various stints in farming but decided that cooking was where his heart belonged after working in restaurants with master chefs.  He worked his way up the ranks in kitchens around the country. Soon Southcombe was Executive Chef at a 5-star hotel in Brisbane with 50 chefs and a brigade of stewards working under him.  Taking part in competitions fueled his passion.  For this, he was rewarded with the title “Chef of the Nation” for Australia and New Zealand in 1997.

2010 saw Southcombe and his family traversing the globe from Brisbane to California to attend a conference. He believes divine circumstances put him in contact with Tara Russell, the founder of Create Common Good, who attended the same gathering. Soon after, he and his family followed their call in life by embarking on their “journey of faith” to Boise, to team up with Russell, Angie Tuft and the small team working for the then fledgling organization. Together they developed a culinary arts program based out of the Cathedral of the Rockies. As a vehicle to raise funds and create awareness in the community, Create Common Good presented high end dinner parties in private homes around Boise, where Southcombe performed his culinary magic, ensuring word spread soon.

Create Common Good (CCG) is a non-profit organization that is a living message of Wayne Dyer’s belief, “no human left behind”. It aims to be financially self-reliant and not dependent on grants and donations to achieve its mission. CCG generates revenue by producing food to supply to businesses such as Jacksons Gas Stations, Parrilla Grill, Flatbread, Steph’s Serious Salsa and Mobley’s Hand-Crafted Ice Cream. This revenue enables the students to benefit by receiving culinary training at a very low cost.

One cannot truly appreciate the depth of CCG and its spirit of family until you step onto the premises.  I was fortunate to be invited for lunch, coincidentally on graduation day.  This touching ceremony bore witness to the students’ hard work and perseverance coming to fruition.  Partaking in a lunch that represents “every tribe and nation, sitting together, breaking all cultural barriers” is priceless.

Southcombe says, “We all have gifts in our hands that we must use in the most effective way. All the jobs and experiences in life are our training ground for what we are really meant to be doing. I have never been happier doing what I’m doing now.”

For more information about Create Common Good and Executive Chef Brent Southcombe’s culinary program: