Opportunity Kitchen Provides Second Chance in Toledo

Created with a goal of giving individuals a second chance at a productive future, the Opportunity Kitchen provides a boot-camp-style culinary education in a supportive environment.

Students not only learn about the ins and outs of the commercial foodservice industry, they also learn life lessons about commitment to craft and dedication to work.

Burkett Restaurant Equipment & Supplies was among the sponsors of the program in attendance, July 15, at the graduation ceremony for the first class of Opportunity Kitchen graduates. Committed to the community we call home, Burkett was on board as soon as we heard about this program, donating numerous smallwares and supplies to the commercial kitchen.

During the 10-week, 80-hour class curriculum, students learned front of the house and back of the house operations of a restaurant and became ServSafe certified. The kitchen is housed inside Helping Hands of St. Louis, under the auspices of Catholic Charities of Northwest Ohio and the Diocese of Toledo.

Working in the Helping Hands kitchen and visiting area restaurant kitchens to see how they operate inspired students and opened doors for them to enter the industry equipped with the technical and soft skills needed to succeed. The training, however, goes beyond the kitchen, said Program & Culinary Instructor, Chef Saundra Irvine.

“The kitchen is a disciplined and fast-paced place. Everything has a process and an order that must be communicated. Everything in the kitchen relates to life. That’s why we do this program.”

Coordinator Byron Wynn expressed that the program, “focuses on transformational change that can be done through learning, education, and, in this case, culinary arts.”

All graduates of the program already have job offers in hand, including Jermaine Sanford, who will be working at Starbucks. The coffee giant is also a program sponsor and had employees visit the Opportunity Kitchen to teach students about making coffee.

“This was more than just learning about the food service industry,” Sanford said. “It was a chef with students under her tutelage, this was us becoming a family and building a lasting legacy that I hope everyone will have the opportunity to experience and learn.”

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