It’s a culinary class unlike any you’ve seen, two years of training condensed into three months, guiding aspiring food professionals both in the kitchen and in the classroom.
Executive Chef Manny Robinson and his assistants have led the students for more than a year, and he says, this craft isn’t nearly as easy as it may seem.
“It’s tough,” he said. “You multitask. You stack their curriculum. You blend in a little job readiness and life skills. Most students come from the city and the county… low -neighborhoods… a breath of fresh air.”
The FoodWorks Program advances students through three phases of workplace readiness: Coursework and training, food safety certification and ultimately, job placement.
It was an appealing prospect to 18-year-old Malik Cheeks who enrolled shortly after graduating high school.
“For me coming from school, the book work, the standing up all the time, I’m used to it. I would live to travel. Experience different cultures. You can learn about different cultures and people just by what they eat.
As Chef Robinson said, FoodWorks attracts students from a variety of backgrounds, some getting started, others looking for a change.
Barbara Vann has taken courses at Baltimore County Community College in hospitality management. She says after learning how to manage the front office of the service industry, it’s time to learn how things work toward preparation.
“I’m a mother of four, so I’m used to cooking for two sets of twin boys and I come from a cooking family,” she said. “What I’ve learned to do is cook on a larger scale. I would love to go work for one of the school systems in a school cafeteria.”
What makes the FoodWorks Program equally impressive is that the meals the students prepare in class are vacuum-sealed and delivered to needy families and food kitchens throughout the region.
The possibilities are endless, exactly as the FoodWorks Program was designed. But it also helps that you have someone with 16 years culinary experience at the head of the table.
“You have to be humble and patient,” Chef Robinson said. “You build off their strengths and work with them on their weaknesses.”
And in the end, the Program helps develop the skills needed for these aspiring chefs to get to work, putting food on our tables.