Anthony Bourdain dropped out of high school and started his career in the restaurant business as a dishwasher.
And this is no anomaly. It’s the beauty of this industry. It’s not about who you are on paper; it’s who you are in the kitchen. Almost any famous chef or restauranteur you’ve ever heard of worked their way up to where they are now. It’s hard work, dedication, passion in their rawest forms. Cooking, in particular has sparked a sense of purpose known to completely turn lives around.
I’ve heard inspiring stories in the media and even from coworkers in various restaurants, so I knew that this was true, but recently I had the opportunity to witness the power of cooking in its full glory.
I want to share my experience interning at Saint Joseph’s Center in Venice, CA. I was mostly involved with the Culinary Training Program, a 12-week cooking course for people getting back on their feet or with other barriers to employment. They train hard in the kitchen, attend lectures on everything from cooking techniques to life skills, and work shifts at a local cafe called, Bread and Roses in Venice Beach that feeds the homeless. After completing the curriculum, their experience culminates in a 4-week externship at a restaurant or other food service establishment based upon their culinary interests.
And after this? The possibilities are endless.
And miles beyond what could have been imaginable just 18 weeks before.
Talk about a rewarding experience for everyone involved. From the amazing program coordinators, to the guest chefs who share their time, stories, and knowledge, to of course the students themselves, it is truly a team effort. Everyone there comes with his or her unique story, background, hardships, successes, strengths, personality. But everyone leaves with a shared sense of motivation, passion, and newly-found inspiration to begin this new phase of their lives.
So the next time you find yourself dining in the vibrant LA restaurant scene, take a second to appreciate that the food in front of you may have a story behind it that reaches far beyond the plate.
To learn more about the program or get involved, check out their website and follow them @sjculinary
(all photos courtesy of SJC/CTP)