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Campus Kitchen Expands with Culinary Training

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May 18, 2006 | by Judy Moore

Northwestern’s Campus Kitchen recently expanded its services with a new year-round Culinary Job Training program (CJT) to help underemployed or unemployed adults in the Evanston community reach their full potential in the culinary field through education and experience.

The CJT program’s first eight-member class of culinary students — five women and three men aged 35 to 56 — received their CJT program certificates during an April graduation ceremony in Allison Dining Hall on the Evanston campus.

Five of the graduates are Evanston residents and three live in the neighboring Rogers Park area. As part of the recent ceremony, the graduates planned the menu and prepared and served dinner to family members and friends who attended the event. They demonstrated what they learned before enjoying the meal with their guests.

The Campus Kitchens Project is an initiative that brings colleges and universities together with student volunteers, on-campus dining services professionals and community organizations to combat hunger in cities across the United States.

In addition to running the CJT program, Northwestern’s Campus Kitchen currently prepares and serves 47,000 free meals per year to Evanston-area clients.

“During the first week of January, we sent out a call for trainees to agencies we work with such as the McGaw YMCA, the Evanston One Stop Illinois Employment and Training Center for Northern Cook County, the Youth Job Center, and National Student Partnerships, a student-led volunteer service organization with a branch in Evanston,” said Jonathan B. W. Kaufman, coordinator of the Campus Kitchen.

All of the trainees who responded for the first set of classes shared a passion for the culinary arts. Some chose the CJT program because they already had some experience in food services and felt that re-training would help them secure a more permanent or higher level job in the culinary field. Others were directed to Northwestern’s CJT program by Evanston service agencies.

Kaufman ran the program’s first 10-week session, which ended April 9, with the help of two student interns — Nikki Goldwater and Jen Daniels — both Northwestern juniors.

Kaufman taught the sanitation classes. Goldwater orchestrated the culinary classes and organized the guest chef lectures and demonstrations by working with chefs Manuel Aguilar and Richard Sipes from Sodexho, the University’s food service provider, and a leading food and facilities management services company, and chefs from Kendall College in Chicago. Daniels organized and taught the “life skills” classes that included resume writing and interviewing, both important factors in securing a job in any field.

Northwestern student volunteers who are part of the local National Student Partnership Program taught two of the “life skills” classes.

During the 10-week session, classes were held three nights a week. Monday night classes focused on food sanitation such as safe food handling, foodborne illnesses, microorganisms and building maintenance.

In order to become a certified food handler, trainees are taught proper food safety procedures that are outlined by the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation’s ServSafe training methods. To become ServSafe Food Safety-certified, individuals must meet state and local health department regulatory requirements and pass an exam. In a few weeks, graduates of the first Campus Kitchen CJT program class will receive their ServSafe certificates from the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

All in-kitchen classes were held in Allison Hall, while the sanitation and lifestyle classes took place in lecture rooms at Norris University Center.

Tuesday night culinary lesson topics include garnish and presentation, measuring, knife skills, hot cooking methods, healthy cooking and produce, poultry, desserts, flavoring and spices.

Creativity is encouraged. During the first Tuesday night class that focused on garnishes and presentations, trainees were challenged to present a single piece of white bread in the most appetizing manner. One imaginative trainee cut her bread slice into four triangles. She toasted two of the triangles, and set all four triangles on a plate in checkerboard fashion and added sliced lime cut to resemble Kermit the frog. Another trainee sliced his piece of bread into lengthwise strips, rolled each strip in cocoa powder and used toothpicks to build a standing pyramid. He added fresh greens around the base of the pyramid to create a grassy landscape.

During the Tuesday night in-kitchen classes, trainees were required to produce two meals. They also attended one guest chef demonstration each week.

Wednesday nights were devoted to “life skills” lessons that ranged from goal setting and conflict resolution to resume building, interviewing, body language and work place behavior.

The curriculum included a review of past weeks’ lessons. Each CJT program trainee was required to attend at least three Campus Kitchen delivery shifts. In the future, candidates also will be required to serve an internship with Sodexho.

The CJT classes are taught by Campus Kitchen volunteers, both students and community members, who work with CJT at regular Monday and Wednesday evening shifts as well as at each trainee’s selected delivery shifts. The interaction between regular Campus Kitchen volunteers and training provide another layer of encouragement for the trainees.

Campus Kitchen volunteers work closely with Northwestern’s Sodexho’s Human Resource Department on plugging CJT graduates into the hiring process at Sodexho accounts both on and off the Evanston campus.

The Campus Kitchen at Northwestern assumes the upfront cost of purchasing ServSafe books for the class, as well as recurring costs such as examination sheets and kitchen materials used in class. They also recruit guest chefs from local restaurants and Sodexho accounts to teach culinary techniques and hire an intern to assist with CJT programming.

Campus Kitchen relies on Northwestern for classroom space, and the involvement of University employees as guest presenters for the “life skills” sections of the program.

Campus Kitchen also seeks support from Sodexho to accommodate Northwestern students and trainees in the kitchen on Tuesday nights; to recruit guest chefs for the in-kitchen lessons; and to provide appropriate internship opportunities for training during the final week of the 10-week program.

“Completing this new 10-week program makes trainees competitive in the culinary field,” said Kaufman. “It certainly sets them up to be eligible to work in some very good kitchens.”

The Northwestern Campus Kitchen CJT program summer session is scheduled from July 10 through Sept. 15. The fall session will run from Oct. 2 through Dec. 8.

For more information, call Jonathan Kaufman at (847) 491-6925.