On Tuesday, Feb. 21, the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners will vote on whether to offer start-up funding to the GO Kitchen-Ready Training Program, managed by Green Opportunities and Mark Rosenstein, founder and former owner of The Market Place.
The program will offer training in food-service skills, including food safety and sanitation, nutrition, food vocabulary and kitchen math.
“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.”
“We are working with the Asheville Independent Restaurant association to tailor the training to real job skills,” Rosenstein says. The typical candidate is an adult, 18 or older (though youth programs are further on down the road).
“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.”
The effort already has quite a head start, thanks to assistance from Asheville City Schools, who have 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.”
Classes are scheduled to begin in March of this year and will be held Monday through Thursday on the campus of William Randolph School. The curriculum includes 192 hours of hands-on kitchen instruction as well as 96 hours of classroom instruction over a 12-week period. Costs for participating in the program will be covered for qualified applicants.
Uniforms for trainees, text books, food for training and kitchen implements such as pots and pans and utensils are still needed, 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.” That’s where additional funding comes in.
Furthermore, the program aims to use the training to produce ready-to-eat meals for distribution through MANNA FoodBank as well as for some school meals for students and their families at William Randolph School. “So we’ll need certain kinds of equipment to handle that,” Rosenstein says.
“It’s beyond amazing,” Rosenstein says. “You’re training people, you’re feeding community and, under discussion right now, are three different food-based enterprises that will be in partnership [with] or using our students and graduates … that will generate income that will come back to fund future students and the future of the program.”
And the chance of receiving funding for the program looks good. The GO Kitchen-Ready Training Program addresses four areas of the Buncombe County Strategic Plan: workforce development, farming livelihood, better child care options and economic development. “There’s a very strong sense of support for it,” Rosenstein says.
Goodwill Industries of Northwest North Carolina, A-B Tech are also partners in the venture. The program is modeled after similar programs in other communities organized under the umbrella of Catalyst Kitchens, a network of organizations with a shared vision of empowering lives through job training, self-generating revenue through social enterprise and nourishing bodies and minds through quality food service. The Asheville initiative was launched with a start-up financial gift from AIR.
“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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.