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M.S.W. turned MasterChef contender leads Bayt Al-Zahra, culinary arts programs

Dearborn native Amanda Saab, a master’s-level social worker and cooking enthusiast whose recipe blog “Amanda’s Plate” (www.amandasplate.com) helped land her a spot on Season 6 of Fox TV’s "MasterChef,” has joined the staff of Zaman International. Saab serves as director of Bayt Al-Zahra, the organization’s crisis assistance and client services program, and will also design and direct the BOOST Culinary Arts Program slated to launch in 2017.

A graduate of the Wayne State University School of Social Work, Saab was tapped to transition Bayt Al-Zahra to a comprehensive case management model that will better serve Zaman’s clients. The new model introduces a more rigorous intake and assessment process, allocates services and job skills instruction based on clients’ self-determined goals, and establishes a timeline for progress toward self-sufficiency. The program will be tailored around refugee resettlement, crisis assistance, and traditional client services.

Meanwhile, Saab will be looking to adapt a culinary arts curriculum for use by the Building Ongoing Opportunities Through Skills Training (BOOST) program, which is expanding its job skills training program to follow the success of the literacy and sewing programs launched in January 2016. The program will prepare clients for work in commercial kitchens through classroom and hands-on instruction in food safety and sanitation, nutrition, food procurement and storage, basic skills and techniques, and advanced cooking instruction. It will also provide them with access to professional chef and guest chef workshops, catering opportunities, mock interviews, and off-site internships.

Saab, whose specializes in Mediterranean-American fusion cuisine and updates her blog twice weekly with the recipes she develops in her kitchen, said Zaman offers her the opportunity to practice her two passions.

“Social work allows me to make a positive difference in people’s lives, while cooking and sharing recipes provides an opportunity to teach others how to create wholesome nutritious meals for themselves and their families,” said Saab, who even combined service work and cooking at her MasterChef premier viewing party by asking friends and family to bring donations for Gleaners Community Food Bank. Saab credits her family for fostering both passions, saying the flavors she grew up with are her “go to” ingredients when cooking and recalling childhood trips to Coalition on Temporary Shelter (COTS) to donate food from her family’s small grocery store.

Saab brings experience in program development to her role at Zaman, having most recently led the development and implementation of Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services-related policies at Valley Medical Center in Renton, Wash. Prior to that, Saab helped lead ethics and customer service initiatives at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle and led home-based clinician training for ACCESS in Dearborn.

Zaman CEO and Founder Najah Bazzy said Saab brings important strengths to the organization.

“We are most excited that Amanda brings master’s level social work experience to Zaman,” Bazzy said. “This perspective will broaden the depth of our work and programming. Her talent and passion for food will feed our clients but also teach them how to fish.”