Culinary Arts Program

1539 W. Courtland St.

Philadelphia, PA 19111

 

 

Finding success through culinary arts

 

As part of a comprehensive job training and workplace education program, Front Step is building a commercial kitchen as part of its Stenton Park Community Learning Center. Here, residents will learn all aspects of working in a culinary position, from hygiene and teamwork to the higher art of cooking. The Front Step culinary arts program will:

     1. Teach students important culinary skills

     2. Teach students how to obtain and maintain a job

     3. Introduce students into the restaurant job market network

     4. Provide resources for Front Step to sustain its culinary arts program

 
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Front Step is building a community center within a structure that is already fully owned by the organization, at 1539 Courtland Street in Philadelphia. One half of the community center will be office and classroom space with a half court basketball court, and the other half of the center will be the commercial kitchen that is a part of this program.
 
Working with our Executive Chef, we will conduct a new culinary training program in the low-income, high-crime Logan neighborhood surrounding Stenton Park, as part of our comprehensive job training program that currently includes mock interviews, resume clinics, the importance of presentation and confidence, responsibility and accountability, and many other practical and value oriented lessons. We are also developing a literacy program for teens and adults, as we have found that many of our neighbors have difficulty reading with proficiency, and that it has caused difficulty in obtaining employment. The culinary program will be one more piece of the overall picture, and will focus on four major areas.
 
1. Culinary Skills
The first, and most obvious, is the set of skills that go in to becoming a chef – knife skills, cuts of meats vegetables, weights and measures, soups, sanitation and hygiene, food safety, storage, preparation and presentation, use of equipment and safety of the kitchen. Promising students who want to move on to more advanced work would be introduced to purchasing, waste control, supervision, work schedules, and other aspects of kitchen management.
 
2. Obtain and Maintain a Job
The second area, and equally important in the mind of both Front Step staff and our neighborhood partners has to do with the ability to obtain and maintain a job, with dedication toward quality. All students will start at the dish washing station, and will work their way through the less glamorous parts of kitchen work, earning their way to the “good stuff”. We will focus some of the less work-experienced students on punctuality, being respectful of coworkers and supervisors, working toward the good of the whole operation, and other traits that will help them exceed expectations in their career. We also will help them with the practical side of searching for a job, and stay with them throughout the process.
 
3. Sustainable Income
The third piece of this program is to provide affordable catering for partner programs, and other neighborhood social programs. This serves several purposes. First, students will learn the intricacies of cooking for, and operating, a catering company under the experienced hand of the Executive Chef. Second, social programs that are bringing other benefits to the community will have affordable catering from a trusted entity. Third, this will give the students a way to be of tangible, immediate benefit to their community, in a way that can increase individual and community pride. We would not compete with local restaurants, as the availability of catering in the immediate area is limited, and we have not found restaurants in this community that cater to larger groups. Finally, while this would be reduced cost catering, it would bring a profit into the kitchen program, which, along with tuition from the program itself, would help sustain future operating costs.
 
4. Student Placement
Chef Bernard and the Front Step staff will use their business networks to assist students in placement into culinary positions. For some, this may mean high end kitchens in formal restaurants, hotels, and catering companies, while others may choose a local fast food establishment, local mom-and-pop restaurants, or some other setting. We will consider any employment that moves students forward in their culinary careers as a success – it will be even more gratifying to revisit these students in six months, a year, or beyond, and see that they have maintained employment, been promoted or even took the supplementary skills learned in the program into another field. Our existing relationship with newly elected Philadelphia City Councilwoman Cindy Bass will help us to identify businesses with a need for the training we provide, as well as students who are willing to put in the effort to help themselves through our offering.