A Very Special Class

Congratulations to Antonio, Christine, Latoya, and Monique! This was our 64th graduating class from the Culinary Job Training Program, but everyone seemed to agree – this class was special. Due to the wild weather we’ve had this winter, they persevered through the class for 12 weeks rather than the usual 11. The students both supported and challenged each other to keep improving and keep going, even when it wasn’t easy. Chef Khaleel even noted, “This class is probably this hardest working class since I’ve been here.”

At IFFS, we know that lack of income is one of the primary root causes of hunger. Without a job that provides sufficient income, it’s hard to buy enough food for a healthy and active life. Without a set of employable skills, finding a job is an uphill battle. But last Friday, four individuals entered the job market ready for steady employment in food service, trained in culinary skills AND life skills by Inter-Faith Food Shuttle’s Culinary Job Training Program.

Many students have faced severe life challenges that have previously kept them unemployed or under employed. But the class prepares students for self-sufficiency. Not only do they learn knife skills, equipment identification, cooking terminology and techniques, and proper sanitation, they also learn life and employment skills from our social worker, Sharon Mitchell, and other guest trainers.

David, from InterAct, spoke to the graduates on Friday, reminding them that “It’s not just about the food you interact with. It’s not just about the cooking utensils you interact with. It’s also about the people that you interact with.”

Graduation is also an emotional time, and students reflect on their journey to be standing their holding their certificates.

CJTP graduation 64 Antonio

“I did this class to show my kids – if I can make a change, they can make a change,” Antonio told the audience of family, friends, and supporters gathered in celebration on Friday.

“When I started this, I had a lot of different things going on. I needed a change….This has been a blessing, having a second chance,” said Latoya.

During the course, students got a lesson from Carmela of Melina’s Pasta – and they felt so inspired that they chose “Italy in Springtime” as a theme for the graduation lunch menu (which serves as their final test). They made the pasta fresh themselves, including Artichoke and Spinach Ravioli, Sundried Tomato Gnocchi Romaine, and Florentina Spinach Fettucini!

CJTP pasta making

Other items on the menu chosen and prepared by the students included:

CJTP crostini

  • Mozarella Crostinis w/ Assorted Provencale Toppings
  • Rosemary Sage Freekeh & Basmati Rice Salad
  • Italian White Bean Salad
  • Tuscan Penne Pasta Salad
  • Familia-Romagna 7 Bean & Vegetable Salad
  • Grilled Mediterranean Vegetable Platter
  • 3 sauces for their freshly made pasta: alfredo, rose cream, and pomoporo sauce
  • And for dessert: chocolate cake with raspberry chipotle filling!

During their time with IFFS, culinary job training program students are not just learning – they’re also giving back. Their everyday work in preparing meal is absolutely integral to our hunger-relief efforts. In 2013, our food service team produced 102,443 meals for children, families, and agencies in our commercial kitchen. These students were a part of that.

We wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors, but we know they’ll be fine. Graduates from the program in past two years have an 80% employment rate, and in the audience on Friday were five former graduates, all working and successful, following their dreams. We can’t wait to see what the future has in store for these four!