Michael has always loved to cook. His favorite dishes to prepare? Country-fried potatoes and fried apples.
“Typically, I only make them on the weekends, for my family. I only do it every once in a while.”
Michael gets to do what he loves every day in his role as Production Cook at DC Central Kitchen Cafe. He started in April before the Cafe opened its doors, but in the short period since then, he says the team has become a family. “People dream to have a job where they’re happy,” he says when asked about what it’s like to work at the Cafe. “I look forward to coming to work every day.”
Michael first heard about DC Central Kitchen two years ago at an information session for returning citizens. He originally was interested in continuing his work in carpentry, but while talking with Tony, DCCK’s Recruitment and Intake Specialist, Michael realized he could build on his passion for cooking while also learning additional culinary skills. He applied to the program as soon as he could and joined Class 115, achieving perfect attendance and the highest GPA in his class. His classmates nominated him as the Class Representative, and in his emotional speech at graduation, Michael shared how he learned so much more than culinary skills during the 14-week program. Even now, nearly eight months after graduation, he finds himself still reflecting on lessons learned from his instructors.
“It was way more than just culinary training,” he reflects today. Michael particularly remembers how integral the self-empowerment sessions were to his success in the program, and how powerful it was to come together with his classmates to share experiences of real hardship with each other. “The biggest thing is finding people who care about you,” he says. The support and guidance of Michael’s classmates made him realize that the Culinary Job Training program is just as much about community and mentorship as it is about cooking, and he credits the community he found with his success in the program.
While Michael was still a student in the program, our staff quickly realized that he would be a perfect fit to work at DC Central Kitchen Cafe. Soon after graduation, he joined our team, and he’s now able to share his knowledge with the learners he works alongside in the kitchen.
“My grandparents visited the Cafe recently and saw my picture on the board behind the counter,” he mentions with a smirk. “I haven’t had a bad day here yet. And there’s so much room to grow.”