It was a surprisingly loud whistle from Eileen Spring, president of Food Gatherers, that called the crowd to order. The assembled graduates, friends and family were at the Delonis Center today to celebrate their completion of the Culinary Arts Training Class. And the pre-graduation mood was certainly lively and celebratory enough to require whistling to order.
The Culinary Arts Training Class is part of the jobs training program that’s integrated into the Food Gatherers Community Kitchen. The Community Kitchen serves meals nightly at the Delonis Center, the homeless shelter on Huron Street on the periphery of downtown Ann Arbor. During their 120 hours of instruction, which accumulates in twice-weekly sessions, students in the training class are responsible for preparing the Monday night Community Kitchen meal.
Missy Orge, Director of Outreach and Training at Food Gatherers, emphasized in her remarks to the assembly that the training class is not easy. Although the most recent class started with 10 students, all of which completed the course, the class from the spring dwindled from eight to four students by the course’s conclusion.
Based on the quality of the appetizers on offer at the reception – which were prepared by graduates of the course – it was not hard to believe that some of the Monday night dinners they prepared during the training course earned applause from the diners.
In addition to their diplomas, graduates received a chef’s jacket and a “golden spatula.” Although the spatula is likely ornamental, the gleaming white new jackets are fully functional. And the goal of the program is for graduates to find a place in the food industry where they could get those jackets dirty.
Among local establishments where graduates have found employment in the past are: People’s Food Co-Op, Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Zingerman’s Deli, Zingerman’s Next Door, Stucchi’s and Washtenaw Community College.
Currently, graduates are employed by Sodexho (at Borders World Headquarters), Subway, Kroger, Zingerman’s Deli, Red Hot Lovers, McDonald’s, Little Caesar’s, UM Hospital, Avalon Housing, Food Gatherers.