Culinary arts students learn recipe for a better life

CAMDEN — Cathedral Kitchen, a nonprofit organization that has been feeding the poor of Camden since 1976, graduated its second class of culinary arts students on Friday, Dec. 11.

The 16-week Culinary Arts Training program included 560 hours of academic instruction and training in cooking techniques. The students also gained food preparation work experience as they helped the kitchen staff prepare the hundreds of meals CK serves each day.

Students also participated in life skills, financial literacy and interviewing techniques workshops as part of their course of study. During the first and second week of November they took part in mock interviews at local restaurants. The final part of the CAT curriculum included two-week internships in November and early December at Blackbird Dining Establishment, Braddock’s Tavern, Golden Corral, Nunzio’s Ristorante Rustico, Tortilla Press, Aramark and Lourdes Medical Center.

A number of students have already been offered employment in the culinary field following graduation as a result of their recent internships. Hiring companies include Aramark, Lourdes Medical Center and Tortilla Press.

Program manager Rita Cinelli will continue to work with the remaining graduates to help secure positions in the culinary industry. To evaluate the long-term success of the program, the employment status of all graduates will be tracked for a minimum of one year.

CK’s chef Jonathan Jernigan said, “Even though many of the students came from very challenging circumstances, they persevered to graduate from this program. I hope they continue their journey to become successful culinarians. The next phase of their journey begins today.”

This graduating class was recruited from homeless shelters, transitional housing facilities, halfway houses, CK’s dinner guest population and other Camden area organizations. Each enrolled student was unemployed or underemployed and at high risk of becoming homeless should he or she not acquire the skills to become employable.

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