Now in its sixth year of hands-on cooking classes, classroom instruction, and individual coaching, Pathlight Kitchen’s Culinary Training Program has provided more than 100 graduates with marketable skills in the foodservice industry. The free, 12-week course for low-income adults has been held four times a year, with Executive Chef EstebanTorres teaching everything from food preparation, marinades, and knife skills to safety, sanitation and restaurant dynamics. Chef Assistant Shannelle Johnson provides life skills classes and administrative support; and both of them help students parlay their knowledge and Food Handler Certification into jobs.
The first 2020 session started in March. Then, COVID-19 precautions struck Central Florida and beyond, closing schools (including the culinary class) and creating a new, stay-at-home society. With no students to encourage and instruct in the kitchen, yet with Pathlight HOME’s program residents in need of food and bulk nonperishable food donations on hand, an idea was born! The rest is history, as they say, and our two culinary gurus are now preparing food for 115 very appreciative residents of the Restore Program at Maxwell Terrace and the Homes for New Beginnings Program residents at Maxwell Garden, on alternate Wednesdays. Our Lead Case Managers deliver the delicacies, within social distancing guidelines, of course!
And there’s more good news, courtesy of Catalyst Kitchens, a national network of over 60 organizations involved in foodservice job training social enterprises to which Pathlight Kitchen belongs. Like a blessing from above, they contacted us to gift a number of our students and alumni with an immediate $500 each from the #GiveTogetherNow Campaign , to offset financial burdens related to the pandemic. Thanks to Shannelle’s quick phone work to contact those who would benefit the most, share their tears of joy and disbelief, and guide them through the online criteria, the money hit bank accounts immediately. It is already helping and we are grateful. On our students’ behalf, thank you Catalyst Kitchens!