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Graduate Success Stories
Four years ago, I was hungry, homeless, and feeling hopeless. I heard about DC Central Kitchen’s white van on South Capitol Street that served meals. I found much more than breakfast. I found hope and a new beginning.
An outreach worker told me about DC Central Kitchen’s Culinary Job Training program. I enrolled, and 14 weeks later I graduated with a food handlers’ license and a job.
Now I’m no longer standing in line waiting for a sandwich. From a hot, healthy meal to intensive training and finally a steady job, DC Central Kitchen has helped me completely turn my life around.
This April, DC Central Kitchen gave me a new opportunity: there was a job opening in the same street outreach program that gave me my new beginning. Today, I’m driving the white van every morning to help people like me get the services and support they need to change their lives.
I ask you to please make a donation today. Your gift buys an opportunity for the people like me who are ready to change, but need a hand getting out of the sandwich line and into the driver’s seat.
At Capital Food Fight, we proudly announced Anand Shantam as the winner of the annual Shining Star Award. The Shining Star is awarded to a DC Central Kitchen employee and culinary graduate who exemplifies our spirit of empowerment and change. Anand received a $5,500 scholarship to continue her culinary education at L’Academie de Cuisine.
Anand, a Culinary Job Training program graduate, currently works as a production cook at Walker-Jones Education Campus where she has become a leading force in ensuring that the healthy school meals we serve are delicious and nutritionally sound.
“I can be part of their evolution. I can make them better human beings through food. Food is everything,” says Anand about what she likes best about her work with students. At Walker-Jones she has proven that kids will eat vegetables if they are prepared the right way.
Anand learned about the Culinary Job Training program from a counselor who knew of her passion of cooking from helping her family preparing meals as a child. Not long after graduating, she was asked to come back to work for DC Central Kitchen. “I had no idea about the opportunities to find a job. I really believe in our mission statement.”
Bright, cheery, and passionate, Anand looks forward to her future. “With this job I’ve really found courage and hope. Now with this scholarship, I’m walking through doors that I didn’t know could help me grow in this field.”
Anand writes in her scholarship application: “At this journey in my life, I take to heart and am very proud to be working for DC Central Kitchen whose logo reads: Feeding the Soul of the City. We are part of the solution.“
At L’Academie de Cuisine, Anand looks forward to learning from true professionals about the business of running a kitchen. A vegetarian, she also hopes to learn more about cooking meats.
The Shining Star Award is made possible by L’Academie de Cuisine, Think Food Group, Dufour & Co and Friends, Design Foundry, Atmosphere Inc., and Atlantic Valet.
Q: The last time we caught up with you was on camera at your graduation from the Culinary Job Training program back in December when you had just been offered a job. What have you been up to?
SW: Right before graduation I was offered a part-time job working in a market that provides catering services. I was excited to have a job offer, but would have liked to have full-time hours. When Tim Miller, Director of Contract Foods at DC Central Kitchen’s Nutrition Lab, heard that I was looking for full-time work, he offered me a utility position at the Nutrition Lab I’ve been at the Nutrition Lab for ten months now.
Q: How have things been going at the Nutrition Lab?
SW: Really well! I worked in the utility position for a couple of months and then moved over to transportation, delivering meals. Now I’ve just started working on production in the kitchen. I’ve really had the chance to rise to the occasion and show what I’m able to do.
Q: What additional skills have you been able to pick up here at the Lab that you weren’t able to cover in class?
SW: From washing dishes to cooking, from taking inventory to ordering, I’m getting a chance to learn how to do everything in that kitchen. Not to mention that my math skills have really gotten better!
Q: You mentioned that you had hoped to end up at the Nutrition Lab. Has working at the Kitchen lived up to your expectations?
SW: The hardest part of the whole class was finding a job. When I was asked to work here, it made all of the worthwhile. Coming over to the Lab really just felt like coming home.
Q: Graduates always say the hardest part of CJT is the life-skills class. How have you continued to address your personal challenges since graduation?
SW: I still have some things that I continue to work through. One thing that really helps is that the people here at the Lab stick behind me the whole time as I work through my problems, which makes me want to keep bettering myself. The support I receive shows me that it’s not just a job. It shows that my coworkers really care about me.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your job at the Nutrition Lab?
SW: Honestly, just coming into work and being around the people that I work with. We work hard, but we have a lot of fun doing it. I’ve never in my life had a job where I wake up and actually want to go to work. Every day I learn something new. There isn’t a person in the building who hasn’t taught me something.
Janine Cowling is a recent graduate of DC Central Kitchen’s 88th Culinary Job Training class. As a CJT student, Janine interned for two weeks at the Nutrition Lab. When we profiled her at that time, she told us she’d like to come back to work at the Lab after graduation. Last week she joined us as a member of our transportation staff.
Tell us about your job search:
I had a couple of really good interviews at restaurants around town for server and hostess positions, but wanted to work in a place where I’d be able to continue using the skills I had developed in CJT.
Then Chris Lucas, the transportation manager at DCCK saw my application and told me he’d call me in to interview for a driver position; that was the happiest moment for me. When I was offered the job and found out I’d be at the Lab, I was thrilled to get to come back and work with all the beautiful people I had interned with.
Tell us a little bit about your day as a driver:
I deliver meals each day to the shelters at DC General Hospital and Covenant House, which is also a shelter over in Southeast. In the morning I take out four hundred breakfast meals. Then I come back and get ready to deliver two hundred lunches. The fun thing is that I’m responsible for getting together all of the stuff that I take out on my deliveries. I also help out with whatever else is needed around the kitchen.
What is the most interesting thing that has happened since you started working at the Lab?
Well, I started working last Saturday, and the next day I helped out with a catering event for about 2,000 people at the AIDS March on the National Mall. It was really busy down there. I helped to set up all the food and utensils in multiple tents. I know Wyclef Jean was there and we prepared his meal. They enjoyed it too. I watched them eat and it felt good to watch and know that they enjoyed it and appreciated DC Central Kitchen.
Are any of your other classmates hired along with you?
Yes, Adrian was hired as a utility worker at the Nutrition Lab. Carolyn will be working in the DC Public Schools and Erica is also over at the Lab, doing production.
We congratulate and welcome Janine, Adrian, Carolyn and Erica!
Henry Galloway has earned the nickname “Champ” at DC Central Kitchen for being the fastest dishwasher on staff. His friendly demeanor and constant joking puts a smile on the face of anyone he talks to. But for most of his life, Henry didn’t smile at all.
“When you’re incarcerated, every day is serious,” says Henry who spent over 50 years in and out of institutions since he was 15 years old.
At the last institution he was in, Henry realized he had opportunities to change his situation and joined the culinary arts program that was offered. Upon completing the class and being released, Henry knew he wanted to do something with cooking. His parole officer told him about DC Central Kitchen and the Culinary Job Training Program.
“I was skeptical of the program at first because I didn’t think there would be anyone else going through the same things I was,” says Henry.
After talking to people like Marianne Ali and Chef Mike, Henry learned that a lot of people at DC Central Kitchen had been incarcerated as well. No one was judging him for it; the kitchen was a safe place.
DC Central Kitchen provided Henry with the support he needed to readjust to the world he had been removed from for so long.
“The program brought me to reality.”
In his classes at the Culinary Job Training Program, Henry learned it was okay to ask questions and to reach out for help. His fellow classmates became a family for him and were an inspiration, as were his culinary instructors.
“The chefs here all had problems in life that they overcame,” he shares. “They can do it, I can too.”
Right now, Henry is still trying to fit back into society. “The most important thing in my life is getting me together.”
Since his release from prison last year, Henry graduated from the Culinary Job Training Program, Class 85, got his first real job at DC Central Kitchen, and has just signed the lease for his first apartment.
“I still have butterflies about the apartment and being by myself. I just take it one day at a time.”
Thanks to DC Central Kitchen, Henry now has the positive attitude he needs to keep himself going. “I think everything’s going to be better. It will change, but the inspiration I got here, I’m keeping that. I got a smile on my face.”