Earlier this week, DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training Director Chef Marianne Ali was recognized by the Council of the District of Columbia with a ceremonial proclamation honoring her two decades of service and significant contributions to the organization’s life-changing job training program. The acknowledgement marks Chef Ali’s twenty-year career with DC Central Kitchen, throughout which she has fought to provide second chances to District residents overcoming histories of homelessness, addiction, incarceration, trauma, and chronic joblessness.
A graduate of L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland, Chef Ali joined DC Central Kitchen in 1997 after overcoming two decades of addiction. Soon after she began working for DC Central Kitchen’s catering operation, she felt compelled by the tough love and teaching being offered on the other side of the facility through the organization’s acclaimed Culinary Job Training program. She embraced the role of a culinary instructor and soon became the program’s director, marshalling both her culinary skills and a unique ability to relate to her students with authenticity and transparency. Chef Ali developed a robust internship component that connected DC Central Kitchen students with hands-on guidance from the District’s chef community. In the face of the recession of 2008, she led the organization’s strategic realignment toward a focus on training and empowering returning citizens as they transitioned back into society and the workforce, ultimately building a model program that reduces recidivism by 90% versus the national average and saves taxpayers $2 million in incarceration costs each year.
Under her direction, DC Central Kitchen has produced 1,500 culinary graduates, equipping them with the culinary training, self-empowerment, and industry connections they needed to embark on lasting careers. Her vision and dedication have been honored with membership in Les Dames D’Escoffier, the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s Culinary Arts Visionary Award, the Catalyst Kitchens Network’s Catalyst for Change Award, and the White House’s Champion of Change Award.
Click here to read the full text of the Proclamation and to learn more about Chef Ali’s many contributions to her community.