2014 has certainly been off to an exciting start for Project Feast! We started the year by getting settled into our new “home base” in Tukwila Community Center (TCC). Our amazing partners at Tukwila Parks and Rec have opened up their commercial kitchen to us and provided us with office space in the community center so that we can run our training programs, cooking classes, and catering operations from one location!
Throughout the winter we worked really hard to upgrade our culinary training programs so we could provide a more in depth learning experience for our refugee and immigrant students. Our partnership at TCC made all of this possible because we now have access to a large space in which we can offer both classroom training and hands-on kitchen training in one location. As a result we have put together our new and improved Commercial Kitchen Basics training program, and we’ve developed a curriculum that we’re really excited about!
The Commercial Kitchen Basics program is now a free, 6-week program with classes taking place 2 days a week for 4 hours at a time. The class covers all of the basic practical skills needed to get a job in the food industry, such as knife skills, kitchen safety and hygiene, reading and writing recipes, measurement, and plating and presentation. It also covers how to prepare for a job interview, body language, public speaking, and a great deal of kitchen related ESL vocab. Perhaps the most special thing that takes place during the program is the cross-cultural sharing. The program involves Cultural Cuisine Days, which are opportunities for each student to share the recipes that mean the most to them from their home countries, and then teach their classmates how to prepare the dishes as part of the lesson. We feel very strongly that the knowledge our students bring to the table is an asset, and building an environment of empowerment and confidence is a primary aim of our mission. Our hope is that Project Feast students and staff have the chance to learn a lot about different cultures and each other during the course of the training program, and that we can build a strong community network for people to feel a part of and to stay connected to in the future. After the trainees graduate from the program, we work with them to help them reach the next goals they have set for themselves, whether that be part or full-time jobs in the food industry, entering Project Feast’s paid Apprenticeship Program, or continuing on to other training programs designed to teach them how to start their own businesses.
Our first Commercial Kitchen Basics series began in February and we were excited to welcome students from Eritrea, Mexico, and Venezuela. Our students worked hard and really excelled over the 6-week program, and you can bet that we ate some incredible food in class as well! All 5 of our students graduated from the program on April 2 and the staff, students, and their family and friends shared a fantastic meal together as the students presented their final projects.
Chef Buck James joined the Project Feast team as our Chef Instructor prior to the start of our second Commercial Kitchen Basics series and has been a fantastic addition! Our second series began in May and was comprised of students from Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are currently working with our graduates to help them take the next steps towards their culinary and job-related goals. So far this year, Project Feast Catering has hired 11 of our recent and prior program graduates to work with us on our various catering events, including our first ever wedding!
At the moment we are gearing up for our third 6-week training series, which is set to begin July 21st. We are really looking forward to meeting our next group of students and learning about their cultures through food!
- Alanna McDonald
Program & Events Coordinator