POIC Kitchen's CHEF program prepares students for entry level culinary careers

PMG PHOTO: ANGEL ROSAS - POIC Kitchen's Culinary Director Kiara Hardy said she is excited to be serving healthy food to the students of the Rosemary Anderson High School campuses. Those interested in acquiring the skills necessary for employment in the culinary world have a new resource — the Portland Opportunities Industrialized Center Kitchen in Rockwood.

The kitchen was created by POIC, a nonprofit organization that helps at-risk youths and adults by providing services in education, mentoring, family outreach, employment training and placement. The organization has continued that mission with the creation of the kitchen at the Rockwood Market Place.

Students who have faced barriers in traditional high schools and middle schools encounter personalized instruction in a small classroom setting at POIC's five Rosemary Anderson High School campuses.

"The purpose of the POIC Kitchen is twofold," said chef and the POIC Kitchen's Culinary Director Kiara Hardy. "We are here to produce lunches for our five Rosemary Anderson campuses. The other function is to run our Culinary Hospitality Emergent Fellowship (CHEF) program."

The POIC Kitchen staff make healthy meals from scratch for each of the Rosemary Anderson campuses.

"Our main goal with the kitchen was to make the food that we gave our students better, more health and more recognizable," Hardy said. "We want to make food that our students would be excited about, and you know, if they are excited about the food chances are they might be even more excited to show up to class."

The four Rosemary Anderson High School campuses serve 550 students annually. Many of the graduates complete diplomas or GEDs after age 19 because of unstable family situations and homelessness.

On top of making lunches for the campuses, the kitchen will also offer a 12 week paid program where participants will learn everything they need to secure and prosper in an entry level job in the culinary field.

"Participants will also learn those soft skills that aren't often taught like professionalism in a kitchen and soft skills like being on time," Hardy said. "But they will also learn the basics of sanitation, cleanliness, knife skills and everything that would go with that."

The CHEF program is a unique academy that hopes to give people interested in a career in culinary field a leg up when applying for those jobs.

"The academy gives young adults a different look at the culinary industry. Most people's first experience is working in fast food," said Duoshun Pledgure, the culinary instructor of the CHEF Academy. "It can come off as though the culinary industry is place that is not exciting, so my hope is to expose the students to all of the different opportunities there are in the field."

The CHEF Academy is still accepting applications. People can apply at the POIC website

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