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Windsor Terrace Chef to Serve as Volunteer Cook at Obama Inauguration

WINDSOR TERRACE — When Barack Obama was sworn in as president in 2009, chef Chris Scott was so busy plating food he could barely look up. He was then executive chef at CNN, which was crammed with hungry reporters on inauguration day.

For Obama's second swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 21, Scott will be even busier.

The Brooklyn Commune owner will volunteer his culinary services to feed the 300-member Brooklyn Tabernacle choir, which is performing on the steps of the U.S. Capitol during the televised inauguration ceremony.

Scott will be working for Mercy Chefs, a Virginia-based disaster relief group that specializes in quickly feeding large groups of people. Scott met Mercy Chefs founder Gary LeBlanc when the group came to New York after Hurricane Sandy. LeBlanc was working with Brooklyn Tabernacle on Sandy relief, and church leaders recommended Scott, a church member, as someone who could help out.

Scott became part of a team that helped hand out about 60,000 meals on the Lower East Side and in Staten Island, LeBlanc said.

"It's amazing to have chefs of Chris's caliber come out and help us do what we do," LeBlanc said. "We just couldn't have done that without folks like Chris. We'd see him at 4:30 or 5 in the morning, and he'd stay with us until 10 or 11 at night."

At this month's inauguration, Mercy Chefs will use its mobile commercial kitchen to feed the entire Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir for four days. They're not skimping on the menu, LeBlanc said. Dishes include roasted pork loin, Greek chicken kabobs, beef tips, a strawberry and date salad with buttermilk dressing, and Louisiana bread pudding with creme anglaise.

"I'm quite certain I'll be exhausted," Scott said. But the chef said helping out comes naturally to him — it's one of the reasons he opened the restaurant Brooklyn Commune in 2010 at 601 Greenwood Ave.

Scott, who competed on the Food Network's "Chopped" in 2011, says people often mistake Brooklyn Commune for a run-of-the-mill coffee shop, but he calls it a "community-focused restaurant."

The eatery serves breakfast and lunch comfort food like sandwiches, soups and salads, and sells prepared foods that busy families can take home for healthy dinners. It also sells housemade granolas, pickles, jams and other pantry items.

Brooklyn Commune also offers private cooking classes, and serves as a pick-up point for community-supported agriculture (CSA) services. Once a month the restaurant hosts an adults-only supper club, where patrons pay $40 for a full dinner served at communal tables.

"A lot of people assume it's a coffee shop, but it so isn't," Scott said.  "More than 50 percent of what we do is to give back to the community in any way we can."