Conquering Homeless through Employment in Food Services
CHEFS is a 6-month program that includes classroom instruction; hands-on kitchen training in institutional and restaurant settings; job counseling; and placement with coaching and follow-up. Professionals volunteer hundreds of hours to support this outstanding program, imparting a real perspective of the culinary world and providing motivation and support to our clients. We are proud to say that 75% of CHEFS graduates acquire a place to live, and a better life through employment.
The week Christina Laygo graduated from the CHEFS training program, she started working at Zynga as a culinary assistant. “They ask me why I’m always smiling, and I say, ‘Because there’s so much to smile about!’ I’m blessed. Twice over, I’m blessed.”
Christina says that her first blessing was CHEFS, which prepared her for the second blessing, the job with Zynga. “CHEFS gave me the skills that I needed to be well-versed in the kitchen: knife skills, familiarity with the equipment, kitchen lingo, and versatility in different cooking styles. Plus, you get to learn from not just one great chef but from many great chefs!” she adds, referring to ECS’s guest chef program in which local executive chefs volunteer to share their expertise with CHEFS students.
A survivor of domestic violence, Christina didn’t know how she would provide for herself or where she would live. During the CHEFS program, she also underwent a biopsy for breast cancer—a terrifying prospect, especially for someone without health insurance. CHEFS helped her to address her fears and come out smiling. “The CHEFS program helped me through those scary times, and now I know I can stand on my own two feet.
“Just like a family, we’re there for each other, helping each other. We’re in class together every day. We eat together; we share together. CHEFS became a place of comfort for me, a blessing. For me, CHEFS is spectacular, definitely a path to success!”
Who is qualified to become a CHEFS student?
Individuals qualify if they live in one of the following:
• On the street
• In a shelter
• In transitional housing
• In a treatment program
• In a supportive housing building
• In a SHEC building
• In a Care-Not-Cash building
What do students learn?
• All standard cooking methods
• Preparation of stocks and sauces
• Ethnic meals
• Vegetarian and vegan meals
• Kitchen equipment and terms
• Food safety and sanitation
• Menu planning
• Work readiness skills