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Becoming The Change I Want: Reflections from a CJT Grad

Jason Davis

Since 1989, DC Central Kitchen has empowered more than 2,000 individuals through their award-winning Culinary Job Training Program (CJT), including me! As a recent graduate of the 2022 Fall Cohort, I want to tell my story and share the wisdom that motivated both myself and my fellow classmates throughout our 13 weeks of training.

When I joined DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program last October, I was looking for a new path in life. I was tired of the same dead-end results from working different jobs, trying any and everything to make ends meet for my family. I was stuck in the same cycle, where I was not able to support my family to the best of my ability. I knew I needed to make major changes in my life to achieve my goals and give my family the life they deserve. I didn’t know the full range of what DC Central Kitchen could offer me. Before joining the program, I believed DCCK was a volunteer community kitchen, so when my uncle encouraged me to apply to the Culinary Job Training, I was somewhat confused. After my initial interview with the program leaders, I still didn’t know what to expect, but I was invited to show up to the Main Kitchen for my three-day trial. Over those three days I saw DCCK’s mission and work in progress. I was fascinated, and I knew this was my new path to a better career.

After starting the program, I didn’t know if I would be able to complete it. Once I experienced CJT’s Self-Empowerment class, I became confident that this program was what I needed at this exact moment in my life. I brought everything to a halt to make it to Self-Empowerment every morning. The class helped me be honest with myself and others, and I was able to get back to the person I once was – the person that my family loves. It also gave me an extended family for life, all of whom were going through their own trials and tribulations. My cohort opened up to me in a way that showed me that I’m not the only one battling challenges and difficult experiences.

While getting back to my true self was one of the things I cherished the most about the CJT program, my all-time favorite experience was starting externships and internships based on my strengths and weaknesses. I had an internship with DCCK’s Procurement Department. While interning with the Procurement team, I learned about inventory control, placing orders and organization, which brought out some of my strengths and I was able to exceed expectations with my organization skills. My externship was with DCCK’s Communications Department. While at my externship, I was able to sit in meetings, give my input on messaging, learn more about the operations of all the departments, assist with product photography, and more. But the highlight of my externship was that I got to show off some of my computer skills.

Overall, DC Central Kitchen’s CJT Program was the opportunity I needed to change my life. I am proud to say that I now have the tools and knowledge to help me continue to be the change that I want to see in the world.

I wouldn’t have experienced such an incredible change in my life without my amazing cohort. So, I’ve included a few of my classmates’ own stories and favorite motivating quotes below. I hope you enjoy these insights and feel as empowered after reading their words of wisdom as I have been:

Vernon “V-Luv” M. – “I was in need of a major change in my life after losing my previous job when the company closed for good, so I turned to the streets and sold cannabis. Today, I’m employed by DCCK, and I’ll be working in the Guest Experience department.”


Myia Q. “Honestly my two siblings graduating from the program really inspired me to join the CJT, but my daughter made it a mission/ goal for me to finish the program. When I joined the DC Central Kitchen CJT program I was working two jobs just to pay my rent. My next step is working internally in DCCK’s Catering Department.”


Nicolas C. “Before joining the Culinary Job Training Program, I was a college dropout trying to figure out what my next steps would be. When I was told about DCCK I knew it went hand and hand with my previous work interests. The fact that we would get paid a stipend for learning was also a major plus on top of my belief in DCCK’s mission statement. I will be joining Bartaco as a prep cook next.”


Moná A. – I was staying in California before deciding to reconnect with my dad’s side of my family here in Washington, DC. I originally joined because I have a passion for cooking, but the program turned out to be much more. It helped mold me into who I’m supposed to be through its amazing life and knife skills curriculum. My next step is to work internally with in DCCK at the Klein Center in the Guest Experience Department.”


Toney T. – “I spent my last 15 years in prison. I need to learn to live life on life’s terms and to change the way that I once thought was the way to live life. My next step after DCCK CJT Program ends is to work at the DCCK Cafe at THEARC.“


Errington S. (the Fall Cohort’s Class Speaker) “You have to face it to fix it. There are some things in life that hold us back, and I think you have to confront them. The platform DCCK has created is a platform for success. You just have to trust the process.”


After 13 weeks of hard work and perseverance, the students of CJT’s 2022 Fall Cohort graduated on January 6th at the U.S. Navy Memorial Visitor Center. To see our cohort’s full journey, please enjoy this highlight video of their experience: CJT FALL COHORT 2022 on Vimeo