Combating Hunger, Creating Opportunity

DC Central Kitchen is America's leader in reducing hunger with recycled food, training unemployed adults for culinary careers, serving healthy school meals, and rebuilding urban food systems through social enterprise.
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Updates for 12 Days of Jobs


Class 102 grad employed full-time at high-end bistro, Ris

, January 27th, 2016

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We love it when DCCK grads find jobs. We love it even more when grads find mentors at their place of employment. That is exactly what’s happened for recent class 102 graduate, Takia Jenkins. Takia graduated on January 5th, and just last week was hired to work full-time at Ris, the upscale neighborhood restaurant owned by former DCCK board member, Chef Ris Lacoste.

Takia’s life hasn’t been easy, but she came to DCCK ready to work and ready to make a change.  She worked hard – every day impressing her peers, chef instructors, and DCCK staff alike. DC Central Kitchen Production Manager William Ferrell remembers saying about Takia: “This girl can work. Any time Class 102 is in the kitchen, send her to me.”

When Chef Ris met Takia at this year’s Capital Food Fight, she knew she had met someone special. She asked Culinary Job Training Director Marianne Ali to introduce her after seeing Takia’s take-charge personality and positive attitude working the Tyson Foods booth at the event. Afterwards, Ali recalls: “Chef Ris told Takia that she wanted to set up a time to meet with her and gave Takia her contact information. I hugged Ris and thanked her, and Ris said, ‘no, thank you – I want this girl to work for me!’”

Takia finished her internship with The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City, graduated from DCCK, and began working full-time at Ris on January 18th.

In a week when we’re doing so much to promote and prepare for our foodie fundraiser Sips & Suppers, outstanding gourmet chefs in every kitchen of our DC restaurant and hospitality partners are providing jobs and internships for our students and supporting DCCK year-round. Thank you for all you do to support DCCK!



Staff profile: Crystal

, November 13th, 2015

Crystal

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was once quoted saying: “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” That concept is embodied by one of our staff members and Culinary Job Training (CJT) graduates, Crystal.

Crystal is living proof that with enough drive and passion, a person can truly turn their life around. After returning home from prison with a felony on her record, Crystal knew she would have to build her life up from scratch. At age 30, she had no prior work experience and nothing to her name except a very supportive family, and more than a little ambition.

After returning home from prison, Crystal began volunteering at a local nonprofit called Friendship Place in order to gain community service hours as terms of her release. It was here that she learned about DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program. Crystal wanted to live a life of purpose; she wanted to find a way to do something she enjoyed, while also earning a living wage, and she knew this would be a difficult task with a felony on her record. She had never cooked before, but wanted to find a way to gain marketable skills, allowing her to find more than just a job, but a career.  So, she set out to pursue her goals –  a woman on a mission.

“I didn’t want to just learn how to do something and get a job; I wanted to acquire a skill that I could use to get other jobs. So, I focused on learning, as opposed to just being there. I showed up every morning on time, excited about being there.”- Crystal Marshall

Upon graduating from CJT in January 2013, Crystal began working at Geppetto Catering in Riverdale, Maryland. Six months later, Crystal was hired by DCCK to work in our School Food program for which we serve up 4,300 locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals to low-income D.C. schoolchildren every day. Only one year after joining the School Food team, Crystal found herself promoted to a supervisor position. She now works in DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab in Northeast, DC, overseeing her team of 12 staff as they all work together to meet each day’s quota of healthy meals for 10 schools in the District.

Not missing a beat since choosing to change her life’s path, Crystal not only has a job she loves, but has nearly completed a degree in computer science as well. Crystal climbed onto a moving train that’s not stopping anytime soon. She feels she has recreated herself. As this incredible young woman continues to beat the odds, it seems only the sky is the limit for her.


 

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as a tool to strengthen bodies, 
empower minds, and build communities.

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Graduate profile: LaShawn

, November 13th, 2015

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As I walked into the bustling kitchen of Geppetto Catering at 9am on a Friday morning, it was clear the staff had been hard at work for several hours before I arrived. Tartlets were being stuffed with seasoned ground chicken and placed in the oven, completed platters of fruit salad were wrapped and refrigerated for delivery, and the sound of an industrial-style dishwasher buzzed in the background as cooks jostled between the lines of the kitchen galley.

I was there to visit LaShawn Turner, a graduate of DCCK’s Culinary Job Training program who has been happily employed by Geppetto Catering for “eight wonderful years,” as LaShawn herself described it.

LaShawn came to DC Central Kitchen in 2007 after spending several years in various training programs and looking for full-time employment as a single mom. Out of work and trying to care for her then 2 year-old son, LaShawn enrolled in the Culinary Job Training program because she always loved cooking and she heard that the culinary certifications offered through the program, such as the ServSafe food handler certification, would make her a more desirable candidate for future employers.

LaShawn described her experience in the program as “supportive,” but recognized that perhaps the most important part of her training was the self-empowerment classes.

“I was shy,” she said with a smile. “Self-empowerment brought me out of my shell a lot and helped all of us learn how important it was to support each other.”

Thanks to our workforce development team and LaShawn’s own drive to succeed, she secured an interview with Geppetto Catering the day before she was set to graduate from DCCK. She was offered the job on the spot and started work a day later.

Now eight years later, LaShawn swings around the kitchen like she’s a member of the family. And according to Geppetto Catering owner and DCCK supporter Josh Carin, that’s exactly what she is.

“She makes me smile. She makes the people here smile. She has become a true member of the Geppetto family.”-Josh Carin, Owner, Geppetto Catering

LaShawn explains: “This is what I’ve always wanted to do, and as long as I can stand up straight and come to work every morning, I will. I love my job. Like I tell Josh, I’m going to retire from here!”

It’s clear that for LaShawn, her job at Geppetto is exactly where she wants to be. She is able to be home with her now 9 year-old son on the weekends, and she can’t imagine working any place else.

When I asked her what advice she has for our 100th Culinary Job Training class who will graduate in July, LaShawn paused for a moment and with confidence said: “I would tell them to go for it. Don’t let anybody say you can’t do it because you can. I’m living proof of that.”


 

 

Your donation to DC Central Kitchen is an investment in our mission to use food
as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.

Donate Now



Breaking the cycle, one family member at a time

, October 12th, 2015

Piccom Profile

DC Central Kitchen specializes in second chances—and that’s why many of our culinary students come to us late in their adulthoods, after decades of personal struggle. Relatively few young adults are ready for the professional and emotional rigors of our program, but 24-year-old Piccom Dews defied that trend. In less than a year, Piccom has, in his words, chosen “a path of construction, rather than destruction,” by completing our Culinary Job Training program (CJT) and joining our staff as a full-time employee, where he helps prepare 5,000 meals a day for our city’s most vulnerable residents.

Piccom heard about DC Central Kitchen’s training program while living at Hope Village Halfway House last year. He had already spent the majority of his adult life in and out of prison. His time at the halfway house was a wake-up call, and DC Central Kitchen offered a new way forward.

Piccom’s first days as a student were rocky. DC Central Kitchen’s culinary instructors pushed him hard –knowing he was capable of more than the effort he was putting forward. The sort of change Piccom had hoped to make needed to start internally before it could be seen externally. He stopped pushing back once he realized the CJT staff were only hard on him because they saw his potential, and could not bear to see him throw it away. Piccom finally began to believe in his own promise. “I never felt that much love in my life,” Piccom said of his experience.

“Everyone thinks life is so bad. Life’s not bad, it’s just the circumstances that you are in that are bad. That doesn’t have to mean you have to stay in those circumstances, you can always get yourself out. You just have to be willing to work…I push every single day.”- Piccom Dews

Piccom graduated and landed a job at DCCK—but he didn’t stop with his own success. Shortly after starting his new job, he recruited his 23 year-old brother, Wallace, to join the next incoming culinary class. Wallace followed his older brother’s example and graduated in August, immediately securing a job at University of Maryland Dining Services. Today, the two brothers live together, pushing each other to stay on track in their new culinary careers and charting a new path for their family.



Staff profile: Crystal Marshall

, September 17th, 2015

Crystal

Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw was once quoted saying: “The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” That concept is embodied by one of our staff members and Culinary Job Training (CJT) graduates, Crystal Marshall.

Crystal is living proof that with enough drive and passion, a person can truly turn their life around. After returning home from prison with a felony on her record, Crystal knew she would have to build her life up from scratch. At age 30, she had no prior work experience and nothing to her name except a very supportive family, and more than a little ambition.

After returning home from prison, Crystal began volunteering at a local nonprofit called Friendship Place in order to gain community service hours as terms of her release. It was here that she learned about DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program. Crystal wanted to live a life of purpose; she wanted to find a way to do something she enjoyed, while also earning a living wage, and she knew this would be a difficult task with a felony on her record. She had never cooked before, but wanted to find a way to gain marketable skills, allowing her to find more than just a job, but a career.  So, she set out to pursue her goals –  a woman on a mission.

“I didn’t want to just learn how to do something and get a job; I wanted to acquire a skill that I could use to get other jobs. So, I focused on learning, as opposed to just being there. I showed up every morning on time, excited about being there.”- Crystal Marshall

Upon graduating from CJT in January 2013, Crystal began working at Geppetto Catering in Riverdale, Maryland. Six months later, Crystal was hired by DCCK to work in our School Food program for which we serve up 4,300 locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals to low-income D.C. schoolchildren every day. Only one year after joining the School Food team, Crystal found herself promoted to a supervisor position. She now works in DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab in Northeast, DC, overseeing her team of 12 staff as they all work together to meet each day’s quota of healthy meals for 10 schools in the District.

Not missing a beat since choosing to change her life’s path, Crystal not only has a job she loves, but has nearly completed a degree in computer science as well. Crystal climbed onto a moving train that’s not stopping anytime soon. She feels she has recreated herself. As this incredible young woman continues to beat the odds, it seems only the sky is the limit for her.

 



Graduate Profile: Billy Johnson

, August 23rd, 2015

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Billy Johnson is proof of what’s possible at any age. At 58, he’s already experienced a lifetime of tragedy, but that didn’t stop him from seeking something better at DC Central Kitchen.

Growing up, Billy’s mother was a live-in housekeeper who relied on the older siblings to look after Billy and his younger brother and sisters. He played football at Cardozo High School, but even that couldn’t keep him from the temptation of crime. Like too many other young men who struggled to envision a future of success without crime, Billy took to the streets.

He would spend the next 26 years in and out of the prison system on various charges. But once Billy was out of prison for good, things around him just kept falling apart. He lost his mother to a heart attack, an older brother to obesity and poor health, and a sister to breast cancer.

After all of this personal turmoil and loss, Billy enrolled in DCCK’s Culinary Job Training program last winter, ready to make a career for himself and finally start anew. A student with one of our offsite culinary classes at Central Union Mission, Billy was doing well until he lost his last living sibling in February. Without the tools to deal with such a significant loss, Billy allowed his past to take over, relapsed, and left the program.

But Billy didn’t give up. When enrollment opened for our 100th Culinary Job Training class, Billy returned to the Kitchen and asked for another chance to complete the program. As a member of Class 100, Billy was determined to succeed.  He worked hard, showed up on time, and was committed to turning his life around.

On July 10, Billy celebrated with his classmates at their graduation ceremony. He had returned to the Kitchen, recommitted himself to working hard, and it paid off. Two weeks later, he joined DC Central Kitchen full-time, making $14.05 an hour as a cook preparing meals for our partner homeless shelters, afterschool programs, and halfway houses.

If you ask Billy about his new job, he’ll tell you that he loves it; that he’s being paid for something he’d just as soon do for free. With his past behind him, Billy is striving to live each day to its fullest, never take anything for granted, and give back.

When you come into a situation when you enjoy doing what you’re doing, the money has nothing to do with it. You always have to keep your past in the front of your mind; you have to have a ‘why’ when you’re going through life, because you can make it.-Billy Johnson, DCCK Staff Member and CJT Graduate

That’s the beauty of a job – it’s not just about self-sufficiency; it’s about having meaning in your life. After years of adversity and loss, Billy finally has that chance.