Compton cooks up new chefs school
JOHN GORDON OF Project Angel Food instructs Culinary Arts program participants in food preparation. The program started by the Compton, CA corps recently graduated six adults who are now employed in the food service industry.
“This is an excellent program and a perfect example of what can happen when people open their eyes to the needs of others and seek God’s mind for appropriate solutions. I commend the officers and all who had a hand in getting this program started.”
–Commissioner David Edwards
The six graduates of the Compton Corps’ Culinary Arts program have found their personal recipe for success: hard work, determination, and confidence earned from gaining new and practical work skills.
Twelve weeks ago all were on welfare. Now, all are employed and have the ingredients they need for a positive future.
“We have a vision to meet the unmet needs in our community,” said Corps Officer Robert Marshall.
“There are significant economic needs here that can only be met by individuals having the skills to provide for their families financially. The Cul-inary Arts program provides those skills to its graduates. We have been fortunate in partnering with private and government agencies to accomplish that.”
Compassionately active in serving humanity
The new chefs were part of a pilot program developed by the corps in partnership with public and private agencies. The students, all “hard to employ” individuals, were receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) funding.
With the program now in full operation, the second session has begun with nine culinary arts students.
According to Project Director Michelle Caiquo, the program is is aimed at custodial and non-custodial parents with little or no work history, limited education and job skills, substance abuse, mental health issues, and learning disabilities. The goal is to provide participants with the skills they need to obtain full-time intermediate and semi-skilled retail and institutional employment.
The cost, approximately $3,500 per student, is funded by the county of Los Angeles.
“It’s a one-of-a-kind program,” said Caiquo. “No other faith-based organization in Southern California is doing culinary arts training.”
She admitted the program is not easy, especially for those not used to having a steady job. “It’s a tough program. The students have 20 hours of classroom instruction, and then 10 hours of work per week at minimum wage preparing meals for community programs.”
Meals are prepared in the corps’ kitchen, which has been designed to accommodate the culinary arts program. Project Angel Food chefs John Gordon and Eric Salazar provide instruction. Project Angel Food is a primary partner with the culinary arts program; students prepare meals for distribution by Project Angel Food to the “forgotten” people with AIDS in the surrounding communities.
It’s a labor of love all the way around. Chef Instructor Angela Goodman donates her time to the program. A graduate of Calif. State Polytechnic University in Pomona, CA, with a degree in hotel and restaurant management, she is also Serv/Safe certified with the National Restaurant Association. In addition, she is a Chef Instructor at the California School of Culinary Arts in Pasadena.
Gilbert Villalobos, an Army employee, is the assistant chef.
For Cebring Murphy, Sharaun Swayze, and the other graduates, Compton’s culinary arts program has made all the difference in the world. “Before the program began I…was on welfare with very little money,” said Swayze. “Now I have a full time job and I feel good about myself.”