Updates for Culinary Job Training
Last month, our Culinary Job Training students were busy not only in the classroom, but also competing at foodie events across the city.
On June 16, the students enrolled our seventh satellite class at the Central Union Mission shelter for homeless men competed in the annual Biscuit Bash at Art & Soul Restaurant. The members of this class prepared a biscuit with fried chicken and a variety of sauces, including a habanero honey. Although they did not win, our students’ dishes stacked up favorably while they met some of DC’s best chefs and served their food to eager guests.
A few days later on June 19th, Culinary Job Training Class 104 competed against students at L’Academie de Cuisine Culinary School and Stratford University in DC Food & Beverage Collective’s student Crab Cake Competition. Class 104 student Michelle took home the top prize for her crab cake recipe!
Taking part in events like these allows students to build their confidence and show how their training is preparing them for the demands of the industry.
What’s more, we know that the experience provided to our students is crucial to their success upon graduation. So far, eight graduates of Class 104 are employed full-time. Current employers include Whole Foods and The Hard Rock Café.
DC Central Kitchen has been selected as one of the food service providers for DC Public Schools in the 2016-2017 academic year. A continuation of our partnership with DC Public Schools that began in 2010, DCCK will serve nearly 1,000 more low-income students, providing healthy, scratch-cooked meals to schoolchildren at 12 District schools in Ward 7.
Our award-winning Healthy School Food program was recognized with the prestigious Golden Carrot Award in 2015. Established in 2004, The Golden Carrot Awards recognize food service teams in both public and private school districts doing exceptional work to improve the healthfulness of school lunches.
DCCK will continue its food service to two private schools that serve low-income children, as well as a charter school in Ward 6.
DCCK grad and current staff member Billy Johnson is featured in the recently launched ‘Re: Dream‘ digital video series. The nationwide project will include 40 micro-documentaries from PBS member stations in five cities, including Washington, DC. Billy was interviewed this past fall by WETA, the local PBS affiliate, for the piece in which he speaks openly about the struggles he has overcome and his hopes for the future.
We love it when DCCK grads find jobs. We love it even more when grads find mentors at their place of employment. That is exactly what’s happened for recent class 102 graduate, Takia Jenkins. Takia graduated on January 5th, and just last week was hired to work full-time at Ris, the upscale neighborhood restaurant owned by former DCCK board member, Chef Ris Lacoste.
Takia’s life hasn’t been easy, but she came to DCCK ready to work and ready to make a change. She worked hard – every day impressing her peers, chef instructors, and DCCK staff alike. DC Central Kitchen Production Manager William Ferrell remembers saying about Takia: “This girl can work. Any time Class 102 is in the kitchen, send her to me.”
When Chef Ris met Takia at this year’s Capital Food Fight, she knew she had met someone special. She asked Culinary Job Training Director Marianne Ali to introduce her after seeing Takia’s take-charge personality and positive attitude working the Tyson Foods booth at the event. Afterwards, Ali recalls: “Chef Ris told Takia that she wanted to set up a time to meet with her and gave Takia her contact information. I hugged Ris and thanked her, and Ris said, ‘no, thank you – I want this girl to work for me!’”
Takia finished her internship with The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, graduated from DCCK, and began working full-time at Ris on January 18th.
In a week when we’re doing so much to promote and prepare for our foodie fundraiser Sips & Suppers, outstanding gourmet chefs in every kitchen of our DC restaurant and hospitality partners are providing jobs and internships for our students and supporting DCCK year-round. Thank you for all you do to support DCCK!
Several news stories about DC Central Kitchen aired on television and posted online during the holiday season.
On December 18, our Culinary Job Training program was highlighted in a nationally-televised segment for PBS NewsHour. Students and staff were interviewed about the impact the program has on their lives, and the Kitchen was commended for our groundbreaking work in the area of workforce development.
On December 22, our national arm, The Campus Kitchens Project, was recognized in The Washington Post as being a leader in the field of food recovery and sustainable solutions to food waste.
On December 23, ABC News posted a digital news piece on their website about the overall work of the Kitchen, our meal distribution program, and efforts to combat hunger and poverty with training and good jobs.
Finally, on December 25, the DC-based news outlet National Journal posted a story about our work with returning citizens in the Culinary Job Training program. Arnesa Howell and Emily Jan shadowed Class 102 for several days, taking in a workforce development class, experiencing a practical cooking exam, and even had the chance to attend the graduation of our most recent class of students at Central Union Mission.
We hope you’ve seen some of these news stories on your own, but if you didn’t, be sure to check them out today!
Big thanks to PBS NewsHour, ABC News, and the National Journal for shining a spotlight on the hard work of our students and staff.
Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was once quoted saying: “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” That concept is embodied by one of our staff members and Culinary Job Training (CJT) graduates, Crystal.
Crystal is living proof that with enough drive and passion, a person can truly turn their life around. After returning home from prison with a felony on her record, Crystal knew she would have to build her life up from scratch. At age 30, she had no prior work experience and nothing to her name except a very supportive family, and more than a little ambition.
After returning home from prison, Crystal began volunteering at a local nonprofit called Friendship Place in order to gain community service hours as terms of her release. It was here that she learned about DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program. Crystal wanted to live a life of purpose; she wanted to find a way to do something she enjoyed, while also earning a living wage, and she knew this would be a difficult task with a felony on her record. She had never cooked before, but wanted to find a way to gain marketable skills, allowing her to find more than just a job, but a career. So, she set out to pursue her goals – a woman on a mission.
“I didn’t want to just learn how to do something and get a job; I wanted to acquire a skill that I could use to get other jobs. So, I focused on learning, as opposed to just being there. I showed up every morning on time, excited about being there.”
Upon graduating from CJT in January 2013, Crystal began working at Geppetto Catering in Riverdale, Maryland. Six months later, Crystal was hired by DCCK to work in our School Food program for which we serve up 4,300 locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals to low-income D.C. schoolchildren every day. Only one year after joining the School Food team, Crystal found herself promoted to a supervisor position. She now works in DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab in Northeast, DC, overseeing her team of 12 staff as they all work together to meet each day’s quota of healthy meals for 10 schools in the District.
Not missing a beat since choosing to change her life’s path, Crystal not only has a job she loves, but has nearly completed a degree in computer science as well. Crystal climbed onto a moving train that’s not stopping anytime soon. She feels she has recreated herself. As this incredible young woman continues to beat the odds, it seems only the sky is the limit for her.
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