About one year ago, I moved to Charlottesville as Executive Chef to open a restaurant for a new club concept downtown. I quickly realized, the workforce lacked the culinary skills needed to work in an upscale restaurant. At that moment, I made a decision that would change my career trajectory from passionate professional to driving with purpose.
Every Sunday, I would post my ad online and by the end of the month, I would have anywhere between 30-40 applicants. Out of those that applied, only 2, maybe 3 had the skill set needed to fill the positions. I started out by asking questions; Are there any programs out there to help people gain technical skills in culinary arts? Is there a way for me to be a part of the solution?
I found that aside from the high school vocational program and the local colleges, there are very few programs out there to help people gain the skills needed in today’s kitchen. Working with different city and community organizations, I have set out to launch a training program that will connect the jobs available in our community to those who need them. In addition to teaching foundational technical skills of the kitchen, this program will also focus on essential soft skills such as integrity, unity, and communication.
Charlottesville has one of the highest restaurant ratios per capita than any other small city in the United States. My intent with this program is to address the workforce issues we are facing in the food and beverage industry. My goal is to help them associate the lessons learned in the kitchen to situations in everyday life. I believe if you help people set a foundation and teach them how they can reach their full potential; their contribution to building a future for themselves will increase, and in turn positively impact our workforce.
Basics 101 is a program that mentors young adults and assists them in the development of life skills through our culinary program. We teach the essential fundamental skills needed in every kitchen. This basic skill set will give them the tools to be successful in life and prepare them with the mental stability needed in today’s workforce. The goal with this program is to establish a restaurant that will inspire, encourage, and empower the young adults within our community.
Through the support of the community, investors, and our passionate team members, I believe we can offer a progressive solution addressing our problems in a social and economic way. Currently, I am working with the City of Charlottesville through CATEC vocational school on a workforce program that will combine the hard skills of culinary arts with necessary life skills. This pilot program will allow us the opportunity to directly impact the community. We draw inspiration from previously established business models such as Farestart out of Seattle, Washington, Liberty’s Kitchen, in New Orleans and Central Kitchen, in DC. I am confident that with the combined resources of local organizations working in unison, that we can provide a meeting place where people from our community can gather and heal through food.