This community kitchen is prepping chefs of all ages for hire

These students have the chops.


Students of all ages and backgrounds in Vermont are learning what it takes to work in a professional kitchen.

The youngest student is 18, while the oldest is 55. But the youngest student in the class is coming in with some experience.

"I’m a little rusty right now," said Eli Longe, while chopping vegetables. "I have two years of Essex Tech professional foods program."

Meanwhile, Kevin Chase is on the other end of the age spectrum.

"I’ve never worked with knives before, but I guess there's always a first for everything," he said.

That's the goal of the 12-week training program run through the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf. They're having fun while learning the skills it takes to work in a restaurant.

"It’s a scary place to come into the first time," said Jim Logan, chef instructor. "Some people have never been in a kitchen before, so we try to get them to feel like this is home as much as possible and that they belong here."

This is also part of the recruiting method the food shelf uses. Hannah Harrington works to recruit and enroll people in the course as the food shelf's service coordinator.

"These are normally underemployed or unemployed Vermonters," Harrington said. "They’re either looking for work at the time, or they are not getting enough hours in the job they’re at, or they’re seeking more career advancement."

While getting a higher-paying job is the hope, Harrington said she sees major shifts in confidence by the time students reach graduation.

"You see people go through this program who sometimes can be very timid starting out and then move into a leadership role," she said.

The youngest chef-in-training said he hopes to reach a leadership position in the culinary world.

"My goal after is to get a good cooking job," Longe said. "After that, maybe get a food truck, and then from there, build something great."

With more than two months to go until graduation, the instructor said he's excited to see his seventh class go through the process.

"I see growth on almost every single person," Logan said. "It’s not easy, but it’s definitely rewarding. They will benefit from it in amazing ways."

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