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Exploring Culinary Careers for Students in Undeserved Communities

Photo: Courtesy of Nick Karvounis

The food and hospitality industry, with its vast scope and endless variety of jobs, offers something for everyone. Students from underserved communities need the chance to see the wealth of opportunities and jobs that await them.

Introducting students to the workplace

Nonprofit culinary programs play an essential role in connecting the classroom to the workplace, and are a bridge from education to the employer. They work actively with the professionals in the industry and provide a solid introduction to fundamental culinary skills, as well as access to role models and adults who provide motivation, opportunities and strategic advice.

By actively partnering with these programs, industry professionals are making a meaningful difference by donating their time and experience to a new generation of passionate learners. Employers are a leading influence for engaging and mentoring those who are underserved. They invite students to participate in programs where they connect their culinary studies in the classroom directly to the workplace. Employers also mentor culinary educators to better inform them on what students need to know while on the job.

Through working together, we build the students’ food skills early and intensely, provide life-skills training to ready them for success and offer them hands-on experience in the industry. We can ensure that these students, often faced with a lack of economic and educational opportunities, have a shot at the lively food scene in the United States.

A strong foundation

Through its holistic approach to culinary training and career exploration, Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) prepares students by providing them with many perspectives and a solid support system, including chef mentoring, career-readiness training, on-site tours and job shadows, week-long chef boot camps, college and career advising and more. With this foundation, these young people are equipped to make informed decisions about their next steps and look forward to what the future of the industry holds for them. 

Many young people from underserved communities struggle to identify their post-high school graduation path; the culinary arts provide them a track where they find something they can do well. Before taking a culinary class, some feel awkward and unsure of themselves. A culinary base combined with the value of mentorship gives students a strong foundation on which to build a career, and that strength ripples to support other areas of their lives.

Learning the fundamentals of the food industry can help these students learn the fundamentals of life. It’s a recipe for success.

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