Updates for Culinary Job Training
It was another packed house at DC Central Kitchen’s Class 97 graduation ceremony on October 10. Friends, family and esteemed guests joined DCCK staff, CJT graduates, and current CJT students at the commemorative event held at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Heritage Center.
Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie gave the keynote address, during which he spoke about his own story of success and the journey that brought him to public service. Though today the Councilmember is a law school graduate, he faced serious barriers in pursuing higher education. Raised by a working-class family in Northeast DC, Councilmember McDuffie worked as a mail carrier for the U.S. Postal Service before attending college and becoming the first male in his family ever to graduate from college.
Like many of our students, McDuffie knew he was capable of more, but had to seek the courage to try and maintain the perseverance to meet his own potential.
“Class 97, always remember your struggle, but never jeopardize the investments you’ve made.”
Sixteen out of 20 Class 97 graduates have already secured employment with an average starting wage of $12.07 per hour. Employers include the newly opened Willie’s Brew and Que, owned by former culinary job training instructor Chef Rock Harper, Sodexo food services at Venable and Howard University, Nando’s, CulinAerie, and Burger Works. The remaining graduates will continue to receive employment support from DCCK, including resume preparation, mock interviews, and job placement.
DC Central Kitchen’s graduation is always a high-energy, festive event that marks the end of a rigorous 14-week commitment our students have made not only to their culinary training, but to the self-empowerment and life skills they need to be successful in their lives and careers.
Thank you to everyone who joined us, and for the investments of our friends and champions that help make DCCK’s Culinary Job Training program a reality.
Check out more great photos from Class 97′s graduation ceremony on our Flickr page.
Yesterday, DC Central Kitchen staff, graduates, and friends grew a little bit closer to each other as we shared in the delight of seeing our very own CJT graduate Howard Thomas on ABC’s hit cooking-themed daytime talk show, “The Chew.”
The show dedicated a significant amount of air time to portraying the work of the Kitchen and our graduates. Howard, who is currently the lead production cook at Washington Jesuit Academy for our Healthy School Food program, did such an incredible job representing the Kitchen and sharing his story in front of a live studio audience!
Thank you Carla Hall, Mario Batali, Michael Symon, Clinton Kelly, Daphne Oz and the entire crew of “The Chew” for highlighting our work and our mission to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities.
Check out a short clip of yesterday’s episode here!
Last Friday marked a DC Central Kitchen milestone: our first Culinary Job Training class from Central Union Mission graduated! Twelve weeks of hard work paid off for the 10 graduates who joined friends, family and DCCK supporters at Central Union Mission to celebrate their achievements and plans for the future.
Class 1 representative Lee Hylton addressed the audience, his fellow graduates, and the men and women of DCCK’s Class 97, who just completed their sixth week of training, and said: “Every day DC Central Kitchen exemplifies that there are still people who want to help others.” He added, “This program worked for me and my classmates, and it will work for you too.”
Lee, who spent 24 months in prison prior to starting the Culinary Job Training Program, secured a job prior to Friday’s graduation and started working this week at Acacia Bistro in the Van Ness neighborhood of Northwest DC. Other employers of the graduating class include Sodexo at Marymount University and Nando’s Peri Peri; and graduates are earning an average hourly wage of $11.62.
A steady job can mean a world of change for men and women overcoming obstacles like incarceration, homelessness and addiction. Our Culinary Job Training program works with students and alumni to help them secure a good job to support themselves and their families.
DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program would not be possible without the investments of our community partners, including the Capital One Foundation, CityCenterDC, The City Fund, and the Community Foundation of the National Capital Region, among others. The Culinary Job Training program always has more applicants than it can accommodate, and partnerships like these create opportunities for us to provide more students with the critical tools they need to break the cycle of dependency and find jobs.
Thank you to everyone who joined us at this milestone event. We look forward to seeing you at 2pm on October 10th at the U.S. Navy Memorial and Heritage Center where we’ll celebrate DCCK’s 97th class of CJT graduates!
Check out some other great photos from Friday’s event!
DCCK Opens New Baking Corner to Provide Healthy, Whole Grain Snacks and Baked Goods to 35 Afterschool Programs
On August 7th we celebrated the official opening of DC Central Kitchen’s new Baking Corner! Thanks to key investments from our friends and partners, and a generous matching grant from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, DCCK is able to bring our healthy baking program to fruition.
Back in April we announced DC Central Kitchen Production Manager William Ferrell’s concept for an innovative baking program at DCCK, for which he hoped to create healthy, whole grain snacks and breads for the afterschool programs we serve. William, who came to DC Central Kitchen in 2010 after being released from prison, was a student in our Culinary Job Training program and now serves on staff as a supervisor in the Kitchen. With a long held passion for baking, and a personal interest area for culinary growth, William realized he could make our snacks for afterschool programs more nutritious and less costly by doing more baking on-site and relying less on packaged, processed foods.
William creatively uses ingredients such as natural sweeteners and avocados to make traditional favorites, like banana bread and cheesecake, much healthier. For the Baking Corner opening, William shared samples of some of his original baked goods recipes, including pumpkin bread with lower sugar content, and whole wheat biscuits. Our guests indulged in his healthy treats while exploring some of the new equipment purchased for the Baking Corner. Among several items that now make up this new space, William and his team have access to multiple stand mixers and special attachments, a proofing box to help bread rise, a wood work table for rolling dough, and lots of new baking pans.
We can only achieve our mission to use food as a tool to strengthen bodies, empower minds, and build communities with the help of our many partners. Because of this support, William, his team, and the more than 15,000 volunteers that work in the Kitchen each year are now able to put his ideas into action by working in this space to create new, innovative snacks and healthy meal concepts for our partners. We’re excited to leverage the talent and passion of our culinary staff and dedicated volunteers to ensure that the afterschool programs for low-income children that rely on our meals receive healthy and nutritious snacks that fuel their minds and future success!
Join us at the Kitchen to check out this awesome new baking space and help put William’s brainchild into action.
At DC Central Kitchen, we pride ourselves on running a complex, fast-paced operation that eliminates waste and brings healthy food to our community. So when our operations team walks into a facility that’s designed to do the same thing and walks out amazed, that’s saying something.
The Institute of Marine and Environmental Technology—IMET for short—is breaking new ground in marine and environmental research, pointing the way to a new, sustainable future for aquaculture. IMET’s operation raises high value marine fish in ideal, controlled conditions, nourishes them with eco-friendly food, and converts all the waste produced by the fish waste into methane, which in turn powers an in-house generator fueling the facility. Professor Yoni Zohar, head of IMET’s Aquaculture Research Center, explains “We grow the most delicious and healthy branzino in the most environmentally sustainable way possible, providing healthy seafood in a way that can now be scaled up and commercialized.” A tour of the operation this spring captured our team’s imagination.
“Once the fish are grown, they’ve served their purposes for research, and IMET has been selling their fish to high-end Baltimore restaurants,” said DCCK Procurement Manager Amy Bachman. “But IMET reached out to us because they wanted these fish to serve the community as well.”
“With food costs continuing to climb, donations of high-quality protein are tougher than ever to find,” reports DCCK Chief Operating Officer Andy Finke. “IMET’s support couldn’t have come at a better time for the people we serve.”
While IMET’s research is aimed at long-term change, their innovations have had an immediate impact at DC Central Kitchen. On July 29, IMET generously donated 200 branzino, a European sea bass, to our Culinary Job Training Program, where they provided a week of incredible hands-on lessons. On Tuesday, our students sautéed the branzino with onions and olives. Wednesday afternoon saw renowned area chef Tim Ma of restaurants Maple Ave and Water & Wall—and a battling chef at this year’s Capital Food Fight—stop by to lead a tutorial on preparing a crispy branzino with fried rice. On Thursday and Friday, our students worked on sushi rolls and practiced recipes for ceviche, respectively.
This is the beginning of a beautiful fish friendship. Our culinary students will be touring the IMET facility later this fall, and we’ll be looking to recover more donations of lean, healthy protein in the coming months.
Do you want to contribute to DCCK’s food supply? Check out our food donation options!
The restaurant industry is a tough business. Our Culinary Job Training program is designed to give at-risk women and men the skills and self-confidence they need to succeed in challenging workplaces, and we rely on industry leaders to bring their real-world insight and incredible stories to our basement kitchen.
In the fourth week of each CJT class, we welcome top chefs from the DC restaurant scene for a special ‘Heritage Day’ that exposes our students to new regional cuisines, preparation techniques, and the personal stories of people who have built culinary careers. Chef Tim Ma, of the acclaimed Maple Ave Restaurant and brand-new Water & Wall restaurant, stopped by DCCK last week with his team of kitchen all-stars to instruct and inspire our 97th Culinary Job Training class.
Coming to Heritage Day is a great way for my team to come in and share their wide breadth of knowledge in a broader way than they’re able to at our restaurants.
Chef Ma’s team—Chefs de Cusine Nyi Nyi Myint and Michael Johnson and Sous Chef Juste Zidelyte—brought recipes inspired by their own personal backgrounds in Burmese, Southern American, and Lithuanian cuisine, respectively. They took our students on a culinary world tour, with an Asian-inspired crispy branzino with fried rice, a pan-roasted pork tenderloin with peach sauce over creamy grits, and a Lithuanian chilled beet soup.
But just as importantly, our guest instructors brought their own tales of triumphing in tough jobs. Chef Ma sold everything he owned — even his car — to make his way through culinary school, gave up everything he had to open his first restaurant, and almost lost it before finding his niche.
After hearing Ma’s story, one of our students remarked, “It was so great to hear about Chef Ma’s struggles and adversity. I really wasn’t able to picture myself succeeding in cooking until today.”
You can see Class 97 graduate on October 10th, at 2pm at the US Naval Memorial and Heritage Center at 701 Pennsylvania Avenue NW. And don’t miss Chef Tim Ma as he battles in this year’s Capital Food Fight on November 11th at the Ronald Reagan Building! You can follow all the Capital Food Fight action on Twitter @dcckfoodfight.