Small Bites: Ready, set … GO! Food-service skills program gets money

Get going: GO Kitchen-Ready Training Program teaches real life skills and kitchen techniques.

The Buncombe County Board of Commissioners earlier this month voted to give $50,000 in start-up money to the GO Kitchen-Ready Training Program, managed by Green Opportunities and Mark Rosenstein, founder and former owner of The Market Place.

Suitably funded, the program is ready to offer training in food-service skills, including food safety and sanitation, nutrition, food vocabulary, kitchen math and other qualifications designed to offer students a leg-up in the food industry. Classes are scheduled to begin in March.

"It's kitchen boot camp," Rosenstein says. "It's three months of intensive culinary skills, plus life skills: how to hold a job, how to communicate properly, how to avoid and resolve conflicts in the work place, how to make a personal budget, self-esteem issues. The life-skills [portion] is about 25 percent [of the program]. When you come out, you're job-ready."

Rosenstein is working with the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association, who provided some start-up funding, to tailor the training to real job skills, he says. Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina and A-B Tech are also partners in the venture.

The typical candidate is 18 years and older, says Rosenstein, though youth programs will come next. "It's an adult program for motivated individuals that have barriers to employment," he explains. "For example, they don't have a high-school diploma, or they have a criminal record, or they're underemployed or unemployed. There's usually a combination of factors — it's never just one thing."

Before county funding, the effort got a bit of head start from Asheville City Schools, who donated the use of the William Randolph School facilities to the program for one year. "That, in itself, saves somewhere between $750,000 and $1 million — we don't have to build anything," Rosenstein says. "We have a commercial kitchen that is already almost fully equipped."

The 12-week classes will be held Monday through Thursday on the campus of William Randolph School. Costs for participating in the program will be covered for qualified applicants.

The county funding will help provide uniforms for trainees, textbooks, food for training and kitchen implements such as pots, pans and utensils, Rosenstein says. "I also need a few pieces of big equipment, like a stove and a floor mixer, and we would like to put in a heavy-duty washer and dryer so that we do uniform laundering in-house."

Furthermore, the program aims to use the skills students learn through their training to begin producing ready-to-eat meals for MANNA FoodBank to distribute to people in need, as well as school meals for students and their families at William Randolph School. "We'll need certain kinds of equipment to handle that," Rosenstein says.

The multifaceted benefits of the GO Kitchen-Ready Training Program address four areas of the Buncombe County Strategic Plan: workforce development, farming livelihood, better child-care options and economic development.

"This program started with Michel Baudouin of Bouchon," Rosenstein says. "It's been his idea for five or six years. Through Michel, and with support from the Asheville Independent Restaurant Association — they've supported all the initial research, the prototype — they supported me to do all this work to put this program together."

The program is currently in search of a chef/instructor. Applications can be picked up at GO's headquarters at the W.C. Reid Center, 133 Livingston St. or by emailing info@greenopportunities.org or mark@greenopportunities.org.

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