Hold onto your accomplishments. Set long-term goals. Remember your support networks. Accept failure as an inevitable part of the process. These were just a few pieces of advice DCCK Board Member and Culinary Job Training (CJT) Keynote Speaker Radhika Mohan shared with our graduates at last Friday’s graduation. These are lessons instilled in her by her mother, an accomplished doctor, who also faced significant barriers to success in her earlier life as both a child growing up in poverty in India and an immigrant woman seeking employment opportunities in America.
Radhika understands the effects extreme poverty can have on a person’s well-being and how organizations providing resources and opportunities can empower people to pursue their dreams.
We sat down with Radhika before the ceremony at the DCCK Café at THEARC to discuss keys to success, her commitment to DC Central Kitchen, and what she’s most excited about as DCCK prepares to move into the new Klein Center for Jobs and Justice later this year.
How did you first get involved with DC Central Kitchen? What has your experience been with the organization?
I first got involved after my husband attended a graduation several years ago and told me that I would probably enjoy this organization and want to help with their mission. So, after learning more about the work of DC Central Kitchen, I decided to get involved. About 5 years ago, I was asked to join the board. I decided to do it because it seemed like a great opportunity to interact with some of the Culinary Job Training students and to meet a wider circle of people in D.C.
You are the Keynote Speaker for Class 129’s graduation today. What is one piece of advice that you have for this class of graduates?
I would say persistence. I think we have all encountered job searches or other challenges where we maybe don’t hear back and we assume we didn’t get the position, but you just have to persist and continue to follow up. It’s important to know that it is okay to keep reaching out, and that you are not bothering anyone by going after what you want.
What are you hoping to see from this class of Culinary Job Training graduates in the future?
I don’t know what each student’s individual dreams and hopes are, but I hope they are able to take what they learned through the CJT program and use those lessons wherever their professional and personal lives take them next. Whether that’s in the food industry or working within DC Central Kitchen, I hope they can transfer those skills wherever they go.
As a Campaign Committee member, why is the Bringing the Kitchen Home Campaign for our forthcoming new headquarters personally meaningful for you?
Over the past five years, I have seen the organization grow and expand its programming. So, I think it’s important to see DC Central Kitchen in a new space that reflects their mission and the people participating in their programs. I think for the students, donors, and the people working with the organization daily, it’s important for them to have a space that reflects their values and that they can take pride in. I think the new building is going to do just that.
The (Buzzard Point) location is great in terms of spreading information about DC Central Kitchen to the community. There is going to be a street frontage presence, which I think will help with their mission and allow them to reach more people. Instead of being tucked away and hidden, they will be able to shout the mission further, and as Buzzard Point continues to grow, it’s going to be even more important that we have a presence in the neighborhood.
What do you want people to know about the work DC Central Kitchen is doing every day to fight systemic issues across D.C.?
There’s not just one program or issue the organization focuses on – it provides places of opportunity and access in a variety of ways, and I think that’s what makes DC Central Kitchen so successful. It’s not just delivering fresh food to people. That’s only one piece of it. It’s also the training of a group of culinary students, it’s working with students in schools, it’s working with local community businesses to provide access to nutritious food. I think that multi-pronged effort is what makes DC Central Kitchen successful and is inspiring to be a part of.