Chef Troy Williams Leads Students to Success in the Kitchen

Chef Troy Williams Leads Students to Success in the Kitchen


Fortune recently partnered with Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) to provide culinary instruction and ServSafe certification for participants interested in culinary arts. The five-week intensive program equips students with the necessary tools to pursue a career in the restaurant and hospitality industry. While studying with C-CAP, students learn sanitation and safety practices, basic cooking techniques and numerous recipes under the supervision of a professional chef.  

Troy Williams, a longtime chef with C-CAP, acts as a coordinator of their program with Fortune. As an advocate for youth and formerly incarcerated individuals, Troy previously worked with Ballou STAY Opportunity Academy, a specialized diploma program dedicated to empowering young adults to continue their education. Now, he is thrilled to continue this work with Fortune.  

“I like to work with people who have been in trouble or just can’t find their way. I have an interest in… helping people find their way.”  

At the start of the program participants are eager to learn and gain new culinary skills. However, before students can begin cooking in the kitchen, the course instructor must first stress the importance of sanitation and safety. Students spend much of the course preparing for their ServSafe exam, which will assess their knowledge of preventing foodborne illnesses and cross contamination, as well as their overall career readiness. When applying to work in food service, a ServSafe certification proves to an employer that the candidate has a strong understanding of food safety in a restaurant setting. 

Students can expect to take weekly quizzes on sanitation practices in preparation for their exam, and this knowledge is tested every time they enter the kitchen.  

“We ask, ‘Okay, where is your sanitation bucket? Where are your gloves, your hairnet? Is your uniform properly washed? Are you washing your hands?’”   

Some of the participants joining the program may have little to no experience in the culinary arts, and with this in mind, the course is structured so everyone returns to the basics. Following sanitation, students then begin to learn basic cooking techniques and recipes. Each class begins with an instructional lesson reviewing a new recipe or skill and concludes with a cooking lab.  

“We start with simple knife cuts, and we’ll maybe make a chicken noodle soup to see those different cuts. Then gradually, we’ll go into entrees, breaking down meats, fileting meat and fish.”  

 The program stresses the importance of a disciplined mindset, both in and out of the kitchen. Students follow what Troy refers to as “The Four C’s:” Communication, Consistency, Competency and Candor, encouraging them to ask for help, work together and accept their mistakes. There are some participants who may seem more hesitant in the kitchen, but Troy said the companionship among the students is a powerful tool. They often encourage each other to persevere through mistakes or frustrations. 

“You’re going to make mistakes. And we’ll either tell you, ‘If you made this mistake, here is how to fix it,’ or, ‘Look at what you just made.’ A lot of times in cooking, mistakes are your discoveries. You won’t be kicked out or reprimanded. We just keep moving until we find the right way.” 

To finish off the course, the students have a graduation ceremony to honor their hard work. Families will join the celebration, and students cook and serve some of the dishes they learned to make in the program.  

“It can be hard to get them to focus on cooking because they’re so excited to get their certificate and move forward.” 

Participants also gain access to a vast network of connections through C-CAP’s many partnerships, such as with Eataly in Manhattan and at the Entrepreneur Space in Queens. With these connections, students can follow a career path in contract food services, restaurants or other career directions they’re interested in pursuing. Many students have even expressed interest in returning to teach with C-CAP for future classes. They see this as a tool of motivation for the students.  

“The ones who get hired… they’re always there assisting the new classes. Once the students see that, it motivates them to want to do good so they can do the same thing.”  

C-CAP equips participants with a strong support system to help them flourish throughout their careers. Troy has remained in contact with many students during his time as a chef with the program, and he remains a positive resource and mentor for past and current students. He expresses that any student, even years in the future, is welcome to reach out for guidance.  

“Once you’re a part of C-CAP, you’re in C-CAP for your whole career.” 

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