Justin Turcotte, left, with chef Mike Morse preparing meals.

Justin Turcotte has two great passions: serving good, healthy food and working to ensure that no one goes hungry.

The Montpelier resident owns two catering services — Good Taste Catering and Taste Solutions. In January, he moved his food service from a small, cramped kitchen in the senior center in Montpelier to a spacious facility in Dewey Hall at Vermont College of Fine Arts. The new space has allowed his company to prepare more food for the region’s most vulnerable population — and others.

“This larger kitchen facility has been made available to facilitate the creation of more delicious meals. The move was necessary for the expanded operations as Good Taste works to bring better food to more people. The larger commercial equipment, floor plan and loading dock has made our lives much easier and allowed us to serve more people. VCFA has been a great partner. They generously opened their doors to us to help get community meals out there,” Turcotte said.

He started his business from the senior center in 2008.

The new facility is five times larger than the senior center kitchen; has several food-preparation rooms, including a temperature-controlled room for food that should be prepared in cooler temperatures; four walk-in coolers; two walk-in freezers; and a loading dock. The loading dock is especially important for the three government contracts awarded to GTC — Everyone Eats, the state’s hotel program and the Montpelier Senior Activity Center’s FEAST.

Everyone Eats was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program delivers food to organizations, including Head Start, Salvation Army, local meals programs, Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice, health care facilities and COVID outbreak response centers. Currently, Turcotte produces around 800 Everyone Eats meals per week.

“Recently at a local distribution site, a well-worn construction pickup truck arrived to pick up meals. The driver had taken in four extra children into their home and signing up to get meals they would need for their kids. They said the kids especially like the fresh fruit and milk,” Turcotte said.

MSAC FEAST addresses the needs of aging and disabled Vermonters. MSAC serves 300 meals weekly and is a program of the Central Vermont Council on Aging.

“This program is unique in a couple of ways. We take gleaned food from local farms and use volunteer labor to prepare it. Sometimes the fruits and vegetables are a little too big or too small, sun burned or insect damaged. But we don’t throw them away. They are still good. We take the savings from these donated local foods and cost shift into whole grains, nuts, fresh meat and fish, items that are normally outside of the price point of this sort of program,” Turcotte said. Fifty volunteers per week provide assistance, including meals delivery.

The State of Vermont Hotel Program provides meals to food insecure people housed at several area hotels.

“There are people who need to get out of the cold, are having domestic difficulties, or are unable to quarantine safely at home. These Vermonters can check into a hotel room and receive their meals in-house,” Turcotte said.

GTC currently provides food 7 days a week. A full day’s worth of food for each participant is delivered to the host sites. The hotels’ contract began Jan. 1 and is scheduled to run through Sept. 31. The program provides meals to 100 to 120 people per day.

GTC employs 12 individuals. Before COVID-19 the company employed three workers, Turcotte said.

Turcotte said he believes good food is key to a good life and everyone deserves good, healthy food. “It is the people who can least afford to eat well, or who depend on institutions to receive food, who deserve better food,” he said.

Through various contracts, GTC is providing food to people in Washington and Orange counties and the Northeast Kingdom, Orleans, Essex and Caledonia counties.

Taste Catering provides catering service to the general public.

“We are also planning to address the accumulated demand for parties when people are excited to host off-premises events in the future,” Turcotte said.

Turcotte grew up in the woods of East Calais. Gardening, hunting, fishing, wood cutting and shoveling snow featured prominently in his early childhood. After graduating from U-32 High School in East Montpelier with a focus in fine arts, he took a gap year and settled in Arizona with several high school friends.

Finding Arizona’s climate too hot and dry, he returned to the Northeast and graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 2005. Also, he spent 10 years in the San Francisco Bay area and returned home to Vermont to start a family. He and his wife Michele have two children, Anika and Nicholas, who attend Montpelier schools.

Turcotte is civically minded. He has served on Montpelier’s Budget Review Committee and was elected to two terms on the Montpelier City Council. He has coached soccer.

In addition, he raises pigs and sheep.

“Food is love. We share food together. Food is medicine. We tend to peoples’ dignity through the senses. Knowing that we are sharing this feed with our friends and neighbors makes it taste even better. Good Taste invites you to join the delicious revolution,” he said.

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