In August, Abilities, Inc. at The Viscardi Center celebrated its second batch of graduates from the Culinary Skills training program for youth and adults with disabilities. The twenty-week course, which just launched this year, prepares participants for a variety of in-demand jobs in food and hospitality service industries.
As a final assignment, the certificate recipients drafted a menu, hand-selected fresh ingredients, and prepared a luncheon fit for a fiesta to be served to teachers, staff, and family members. Two tables brimmed with a Mexican-themed spread that included meat and fish tacos, guacamole, rice, and a mixed corn and bean salad. A chocolate fudge brownies, lemon bars, and a heaping bowl of watermelon-lemonade punch, garnished with fresh mint, completed the feast.
Imani, who was awarded a certificate of completion for the course, is eager to take her cooking abilities out of the classroom and into a restaurant.
“I’m confident in my skills,” she said. “I feel ready to stay on task and get hired to work in a kitchen, which has been my goal. It was great to meet new people and make new dishes, and I can’t wait to move forward.”
Once attendees finished their plates, Rob Foley, Culinary Skills Instructor, detailed the next and final step of the program—job placement. The graduates will coordinate with the Center’s Employment Specialists to build their resumes, send out applications, continue to practice their interviewing skills, and ultimately, to secure a position that suits their strengths, interests, and needs.
In the interim between training and employment, Foley encouraged the two to stay sharp and prepared. “Keep working on your elevator pitch,” he said. “Help out at home. Try different recipes. Use the techniques you’ve learned.”
Past participants have had great success in finding work, with many becoming employed before the end of the program. One graduate even landed a job at Eataly, a popular Italian marketplace in Manhattan.
For certificate recipient Jeremy, who took care in arranging the cuisine for the ceremony, the experience wasn’t just about learning how to cook. According to his mother, coordinating with a team in a professional environment and socializing with peers has helped boost his sense of independence and confidence. “We’re very proud,” she said. “Jeremy was apprehensive about the program at first, but I’ve seen him come out of his shell over these twenty weeks. I’ve noticed a big change in him.”
Learn more about the Culinary Skills Training Program.
Founded by Dr. Henry Viscardi, Jr., who served as disability advisor to eight U.S. Presidents and became one of the world’s leading advocates, The Viscardi Center educates, employs and empowers people with disabilities. It provides Kindergarten through High School education (up to age 21), school-to-work youth transition services, vocational training, career counseling and employment placement, assistive technology, and adapted driver education to children, adolescents and adults with a wide variety of disabilities. The Center also assists businesses in diversifying their workforces, as well as developing and advancing disability inclusive cultures in their workplaces.