The silverware, salad and dessert are already set on the table, but there are still a few touches left before guests begin arriving. The culinary students, still in uniform, are working to the last minute making sure everything is perfect before they take a seat for the ceremony. It’s graduation day.
After completing a 12-week culinary training program, we’re proud to have our first class of students graduating and taking home a certificate of completion.
The full-time program included class instruction and exposure to three months of hands-on-training in a state-of-the-art kitchen working with mass food production, children’s nutrition programs, and helping lead projects with volunteers.
With the help from Chef Gary Ackerman, full-time instructor at Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts, the students covered chicken cookery, fish cookery, fruit and vegetable cookery, herb identification, equipment operation, and basic foundations, like knife skills and cooking techniques.
The program is designed to teach low-income students basic culinary skills to help them find a career in the food industry. Thanks to the generous support from our donors, the program is free for students.
“It’s one more way that we can serve the community. We feed the line by getting them food for today, but we shorten that line by giving them the skills where they can go out and get a job and become self-sustainable,” Food Bank Chef Kim said. “A lot of times, it’s about just having that self-worth back and being able to provide for themselves."
After years of working as a housekeeper, culinary student Marcela Andrade began to develop carpal tunnel syndrome. As she waited for surgery to treat her condition, she decided to register for the program to fulfill her dream of working in the kitchen. Graduating will put her one step closer to becoming a personal chef in residential homes.
“Thank you very much. I really liked it. What they did, that it's returned to them again and that they continue doing it because there are people who are really interested in the program and it’s a good one. Thank you very much,” Marcela said.
For student Carnell Weathersby, the program is a step towards getting back on his feet. As a kid he liked tinkering in the kitchen and though he has worked in the food industry in San Antonio and Illinois, his situation changed after moving to Austin.
For now, he calls the Austin Resource Center for the Homeless (ARCH) home. With help from the staff at the shelter, he was able apply for the culinary program.
Despite having to wait for the bus in the heat, cold and rain to get to the Food Bank every day, Carnell was ready to learn and never missed a single class.
“I’d like to say thank you,” Carnell said. They accepted me on my first try. I didn’t have to beat around the bush and clear the red tape, they just said ‘ok you show up on this day kid and you got a shot’. I stuck it out and made it all the way through,” Carnell said.
The pilot class is just the start for the program. During the summer, a full time class instructor will come on board to further develop the curriculum and help get the program accredited after it has been in operation for six months.
With the help from staff, our partners and donors, our first students have jumpstarted their culinary careers.
Though Carnell doesn’t smile much because of the tough times he has had, he couldn’t help but smile during graduation, especially when a chef and local restaurant owner offered him a job on the spot.