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Casa Esperanza Program Prepares Graduates for Culinary Careers

First class of participants completes the new 12-week training program

Twelve weeks ago, Casa Esperanza launched the Culinary Arts Training Program (CAT Program), an innovative rehabilitative program to help homeless men and women learn new skills that can be used to seek stable employment. On May 10, the six graduates of the first session of the new program were celebrated by community leaders, program supporters and invited guests at a ceremony and dessert tasting at Casa Esperanza’s Community Kitchen dining room.

One member of this first graduating class, Jacob Miller, has already been hired at Seagrass Restaurant. Others in the class will have the opportunity of job placements at local businesses and organizations, including the Montecito Country Club, the Bacara Resort & Spa, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and with Casa Esperanza’s nonprofit bakery venture, The Good Cookie.

Montecito Country Club Executive Chef Michael Blackwell is a volunteer instructor and champion of the CAT Program, helping these and future graduates secure local paid “externships” and job opportunities.

“Completing the comprehensive Culinary Arts Program at Casa Esperanza offers our graduates the opportunity to launch successful and gratifying careers,” said Richard Ring, Casa Esperanza board member and adviser to the project. “We are inspired by their commitment to rebuild their lives.”

Under the direction of Chef Anita Krissel, students complete a 12-week culinary arts training program that takes place in the commercial kitchen located at the Casa Esperanza Homeless Center. At the end of the 12 weeks, students are given the “Serve Safe” exam, which will make them immediately employable as they re-enter the work force.

Students are selected from the residents living at the shelter who are interested in participating in the program. Students attend six hours of classroom instruction each week and are required to complete 240 hours of service in the Community Kitchen food program at Casa Esperanza. At the completion of the 12-week program, students who have met all of the conditions for graduation are given the Serve Safe exam; receive a certificate of completion and a $500 program stipend. Graduates work with Casa Esperanza’s job development specialist to find employment.

Also attending the graduation ceremony were many of the program’s supporters and Casa Esperanza staff and board members. The Culinary Arts Training Program’s founding supporters include CKE Restaurants, Ed and Nora McAniff, Venoco Inc., Claude and Susan Case, Rinaldo and Lalla Brutoco, Jordano’s Foodservice Inc. and Social Venture Partners of Santa Barbara.

— Juliana Minsky is a board member for Casa Esperanza.


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