Culinary Program Helps Give Jobs
CHEFS do more than cook food
May 13, 2006 1:08 PM
Two aspects of life in San Francisco, an abundance of people without homes or jobs, and a bustling economy in the restaurant and food service industry, have been combined as part of San Francisco’s 10-year plan to abolish chronic homelessness.
The Episcopal Community Services, a shelter and social service organization, created the CHEFS program to teach homeless people the skills needed to work in a professional kitchen.
CHEFS, which stands for Conquering Homelessness through Employment in Food Service, was created in 1998 as part of ECS’s skills center for adult education and job-training. The program provides three months of instruction in food safety, sanitation, knife skills, teamwork, and cooking techniques. After the in-house training, students are placed in a three-month internship in a professional kitchen where they practice and build upon their skills.
There are generally between 15 and 30 students in each course. The dropout rate is high, since the intensive training session can be difficult for some to adjust to, according to Sandra Marilyn, the manager of employment and training for ECS. All students must be homeless to be eligible, and many are struggling with substance abuse or other disabilities.
West Chumley, an energetic man with a warm smile, was a hairdresser in his hometown of Houston, Texas for 17 years before finding himself in San Francisco with $900 to his name, a suitcase of clothes, and living on the streets. After his training with CHEFS, he has secured a job at Zingari Ristorante in the Donatello Hotel downtown, and now volunteers to help current students in the program.
“I’ve seen the effect this program can have on people first hand,” Chumley said. “Not all the people who start make it through, but I know people that went from having nothing to making 18 or 19 dollars an hour in a kitchen.”
Executive chef Bill Taylor, a seasoned veteran of San Francisco’s restaurant, instructs students with the help of a part-time chef instructor.
“Bill has worked everywhere in the city,” Marilyn said. “He brings talent and a wide variety of experience to the program.”
All food that is prepared by students is donated by the food bank and is served to other people involved in the skills center at ECS or to people who live in the shelters. Chumley estimates that the students prepare about 250 meals a week.
Using only donated food can provide valuable lessons to the students in how to make decent meals without having every desired ingredient available. Sometimes student cooks need to figure out what to do with an over abundance of a particular ingredient, just like a professional kitchen.
“Sometimes you have to come up with 150 different ways to cook potatoes if that is what is donated,” Chumley said. “We are very serious about the food. The ingredients may not be the best, but we still want to make good meals.”
In addition to instruction by Taylor, CHEFS invites professional chefs industry professionals to be guest lectures. Eric Tucker, executive chef of the posh vegetarian restaurant Millennium, has been involved in the program for several years.
“As an instructor who has worked with the students, I can vouch for the program offering tangible job skills in the food service industry, as well as giving the students confidence in themselves,” Tucker said. “It must continue.”
POST A COMMENT
|BACK TO TOP|| |
Copyright © 2008 [X]press | Journalism Department - San Francisco State University