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Commercial Kitchen Basics Training Program

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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!

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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! image3

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.

IMG_2660Our 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.  Graduation2

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

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Natural and Organic Food Entrepreneurship Event

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I had the privilege of presenting Project Feast at the Natural and Organic Food Entrepreneurship Event at the Impact Hub:
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It was really humbling to present in front of food entrepreneurs that I have admired over the years – from the left we have Arjan Stephens of Nature’s Path, Edmond Sanctis of Sahale Snacks, and Joe Whinney of Theo Chocolate!
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We also heard from other up and coming food startups, one of my favorite is Kristi Brown-Wokoma of Brown Girl Cooks (lady in middle). Her black eye pea hummus is amazing! She told us she strived to change the world one bite at a time!
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And what is a food event without food samples?
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Joe Dobrow, author of Natural Prophets and our host:
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After the presentation Veena and I received a lot of positive feedback and excitement about Project Feast. We also got ideas and suggestions from folks in the food industry. What a great event!
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Shoutout to Emily Allen for being a fantastic event organizer and Julie Zagars for these awesome photos!

Post by Nancy Xu, Project Feast board member.

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Highlights from Project Feast’s first year

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Project Feast just completed its first year as an organization! As we head into 2014, I wanted to share some highlights from last year with you.

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Awards at SVP Fast Pitch

As many of you know, the idea for Project Feast came about in the summer of 2012 just in time for the Fast Pitch competition application deadline.  Fast Pitch is a competition sponsored by Social Venture Partners for nonprofit and for-profit organizations that are created around positive social change. I was encouraged to apply by Kevin Owyang, who was in my Office Nomads cooking club and who was volunteering for Fast Pitch. With just 2 days to go on the deadline, inspiration struck and I finally decided to apply using the inkling of an idea I had around empowering immigrant women through cooking, something they already knew how to do. As a name, the word “Feast” felt good as it invokes pictures of people having a great time around food (and adding “Project” meant that the URL was available). While Project Feast didn’t make it past the Fast Pitch Quarterfinals, there was lots of constructive feedback and encouragement to implement. Going through this process also made me realize that this was exactly what I was missing in my previous entrepreneurial experience – the social impact.

So in summer 2013, we applied again for the same competition. With an initial investment of less than $5000, we created an organization with lots of traction and real results to show. We helped more than 70 people get their food handler permits. 20 people went through our 6 week training program and many of them got hands on experience on our catering program. More than a 100 people in the greater Seattle community attended one of our cooking classes and more than 2000 guests partook of the food prepared by our catering program. We earned almost $30,000 in revenue helping us pay for costs while working towards our mission.

We made it all the way to the Fast Pitch finals and on Nov 13th, 2013, I pitched Project Feast to an audience of 600 people consisting of entrepreneurs, investors, nonprofit leaders, community members, and philanthropists. What a wonderful experience to be on stage and tell everyone about what we can do with refugees & food!

We are thrilled to report that Project Feast won the Nonprofit track and also received the award from the Women’s Funding Alliance. In addition, we received an audience award as well the Grow 50 award for free consulting services. It was a big night for us! This award money will help take us to the next level by helping us hire and pay for staff to grow the organization.

We were able to achieve these results through partnerships and collaboration. The Lutheran Community Services Northwest and YWCA at Greenbridge provided us space to do our classroom training as well as helping with outreach and translation. Crooked Trails became our fiscal sponsor enabling us to apply for grants and receive donations.

The Tukwila Community Center invited us to move into their amazing commercial kitchen space where our training, catering and cooking classes will now be based.

Finally, we received great press from The Seattle Times, the Capital Hill blog and Al Jazeera America.

We have lots of plans and goals for 2014. We are actively looking for a Kitchen Manager / Instructor to help us grow our catering program. We have expanded our training program and plan to add an apprenticeship program. There is lots of work to do and we look forward to 2014 with excitement.

Veena Prasad
Executive Director
The Project Feast booth with Alanna McDonald and Trinh Duong

The Project Feast booth with Alanna McDonald and Trinh Duong

Veena Prasad on the big stage

Veena Prasad on the big stage