Making dough at Bell Shelter

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A new class helps clients earn pizza certification and find work.

by Christin Davis –

The first group of students with Executive Chef and Food Service Manager Amie Carrillo.

The first group of students in the pizza certification vocational training class for homeless clients at Bell Shelter is nearing graduation.

Southern California’s Bell Shelter, located roughly six miles southeast of Los Angeles, initiated its pizza certification class in November 2008, using a $77,000 pizza oven donated by California Pizza Kitchen (CPK).

The donation, secured with the help of U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Harry Pregerson, is an exact replica of the ovens used in CPK restaurants.

Bell Shelter’s mission
The Salvation Army Bell Shelter houses 450 people a night, plus an additional 70 during winter months, in a converted 40,000 sq. ft. hangar, formerly a U.S. Army Air Base.

The mission of Bell Shelter is to provide homeless clients including addicts, those requiring medical attention and veterans comprehensive transitional care to help them reintegrate successfully and self-sufficiently back into society.

“We don’t want to just find our clients work, we want them to be gainfully employed” said La Rae Neal, Bell Shelter executive director. She said this class adds to the shelter’s truck driving, security guard certification, and computer repair technician classes.

Pizza chef training
The pizza certification course includes 16 hours of classroom and hands on training. Upon completion, students will have fulfilled all required standards and exams needed to work with an industrial pizza oven.

Amie Carrillo, a graduate of Le’Cordon Bleu California School of Culinary Arts and executive chef/food service manager at Bell Shelter, spent a day training in a local CPK restaurant.

Before taking on responsibility for Bell Shelter’s 1,200 meals a day, nine-member staff (including clients), inventory and food costs, Carrillo worked as a sous chef specializing in fine dining cuisine with the Boston Culinary Group, catering for events like the Emmy Awards.

“In taking this class, I hope the clients know they can do anything and go anywhere,” Carrillo said. “I want for them to be excited and feel encouraged that they can do thisthey can professionally make a pizza.”

Because of kitchen space limits, nine people enrolled in the first pizza certification class at the shelter; 25 signed up. A new class will begin soon after this one ends.

On November 3the first day of class students learned how to identify the equipment, the procedures for turning the oven on and how to properly clean the stove after use.

Client Nathan Hawkins hopes to complete the course so he can find work.

“I want to start my own business,” he said. “And I have to start paying child support.”

Another client, Alisha Lubas, said she would love to work at CPK.

“Plus, I’ll be able to make pizza for my family,” she said.

The main concern expressed after the introduction, however, was when they would be sampling pizza preferably with sausage, pepperoni, extra cheese, pineapple, mushroom and onions, according to client Marvin Danzey.

“I can’t wait to see how far this skill will take the clients when they finish the program here at Bell Shelter,” Carrillo said.

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