In short, the mission statement for the The St. Pete Culinary Center is "a not-for-profit organization created to provide at-risk youth and young adults with top-notch culinary training, thereby empowering them to build successful careers and lead rewarding lives."
The project, which has been months in the making, was spearheaded by Chef Ted Dorsey and Jason Griffin, owners of The Mill Restaurant. However, it is a completely independent project outside of the restaurant. Chef Ted's passion for teaching and helping others better themselves is contagious. He and Griffin love to train and promote their employees from within. They have proven that by giving of their time and knowledge they groom dedicated and passionate employees. He has helped dishwashers move to sous-chefs in his career and it is what drives him.
To quote Chef Ted, "Everyone makes bad choices and we want to give people a shot and at the same time create jobs for South side residents. Teaching and giving back to the community is what it is all about."
Frank Wells, of The Venture House project, was invited for a sneak peek a couple of weeks ago and here is what he had to say, "These students' stories are heartbreaking - and so inspiring: 13 years in prison, now coming back to turn life around and help others; in with the wrong crowd at a young age, but "no major trouble, just in and out of jail a couple times" - but these young people have so much hope and opportunity now: they're an incredible inspiration and validation for this program already!"
The program will be completely free for all enrollees. It is 16 weeks, with a curriculum put together by Dr. Michael Lynch who also serves on the Board of Directors. They are looking to hire a day to day chef that will handle most of the classroom activities, however he and several other popular chefs in St Petersburg, will choose a specific area of the curriculum in which they will work hands on with the students. For instance, Chef Ted loves to teach about creating soups and sauces and Chef Tony Mangiafico, of Grattzi Italian Grill, may choose to handle the pasta portion of the course, etc. The other chefs involved with the Center are Chef Jason Cline (formerly of the Birch & Vine, opening his own venture Poké Rose which is coming soon), Chef Tyson Grant (Parkshore Grill), Chef Jason Esposito (Engine No. 9 and Engine Rose) and Chef Jeffrey Hileman (FarmTable Kitchen).
The City of St Pete is also giving their support by adding into the curriculum a program that they already have in place to teach soft skills such as résumé writing, how to interview, how to tie a tie, etc and they have a health and nutrition aspect built into it as well.
HSN is also pitching in and will take the students in to the studio for one week of the curriculum to teach them how to prepare food for video and picture photography.
According to Chef Ted, most graduates of the Center will have a built in job waiting for them. Not all will be cut out for a fast paced, high end restaurant, but there is plenty of other support from the community and other options that will be waiting for them. We have heard many times that it is difficult to find and retain quality chefs in our area, so this will help everyone. It seems to be a complete win-win situation.
The community support has been great but all of this can't be free without donations and volunteer help from others. Below is the information on their first fundraising gala which is so important so that they can hire the right chef for the day to day operations. Kevin and I will be there and we hope this inspires you to support this great project as well.
Next Thursday, November 17th SPCC is hosting its first fundraising event, A Chef's Tale held at The Mahaffey Theatre to kick off their first classes which will start on January 8th, 2017. The support from the community is necessary to the success of this great project and this great evening is sure to not disappoint. Please click here for all of the information.
(All photos by Frank Wells)
The St. Pete Culinary Center is a not-for-profit organization created to provide at-risk youth and young adults with top-notch culinary training, thereby empowering them to build successful careers and lead rewarding lives.