Culinary Arts Careers that Rebuild Lives

Culinary Arts Careers that Rebuild Lives


One of the most important goals of The Fortune Society’s Employment Services department is to provide our participants with the resources they need to establish meaningful and lasting careers. While many of our participants come to us with unstable housing issues, financial barriers, or with little work experience, we do our best to create an environment of support and confidence building.

For those who may have never held a job, simply sending them out on a job interview with no preparation for the professional world is both constrictive and unrealistic in creating a career path. For this reason, we offer a range of hard skills training programs that are meant to empower our participants with the knowledge necessary to advance within a particular field.

An excellent example of our employment training programs involves instruction in the Culinary Arts.  Lasting six weeks and with an average of 15 people in each class, the Culinary Arts training program is structured to prepare our participants for the fast-paced and versatile world of cooking.

Students learn the content and skills necessary to take and pass the NYC Food Handler’s License examination as well as the national ServSafe Certificate. The NYC Food Handlers license is administered through the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and is essential for anyone looking to build a career in the food service industry within the five boroughs of New York City. Most employers will require this license to allow employees to handle food.  Obtaining this license offers opportunities for career growth and being better qualified for higher paying jobs.  Additionally, this program prepares a participant for taking and passing the ServSafe Certification which will then allow our participants to take their experience throughout the country with an accredited certification.

As a part of this training, students have the opportunity to practice safe temperatures for food cooking and storage, appropriate food handling techniques, and mindful personal hygiene.  All participants obtain hands-on training on proper knife handling, kitchen equipment use, recipe building, and ingredient measurements. Our distinguished Chef, Lorne Feldman, brings over 10 years of experience in upscale restaurant work along with a background in case management and psychology. Chef Feldman’s ability to merge these two areas of expertise allows him to create a challenging but supporting environment for all of the participants.

The Fortune Society offers services to people from many walks of life. The positive impact that this program can make is evidenced by one of our very successful participants Angelica– a young woman in her early 20s who was then participating within our Education and Alternative to Incarceration programs. After a rough few years of not being in school and not being able to keep a job, Angelica wanted to make a meaningful change to her life. As the eldest of her siblings, Angelica always had the responsibility of cooking for her family and undertaking the nurturing role in her household. Angelica enrolled in the Culinary Arts training program because she felt that she had a talent for cooking. Angelica became so enthralled in the material and the recipes within the class, that the Chef himself recommended her for more advanced training offered through Kingsborough Community College for accreditation.

After finishing our six week program, Angelica continued on to complete our Education training with a High School Equivalency Diploma, got accepted into the culinary program at Kingsborough Community College, and works as a Kitchen Assistant within an incubator space. Angelica credits the training and support she received in the Culinary Arts training program at The Fortune Society for allowing her to find her passion and motivation within the food industry.

The intensive nature of this program provides our participants with extensive training and skills necessary for a successful career in the food services industry.  Our graduates have moved on to work for exciting establishments including Carnegie Deli, Jekyll and Hyde Club, Gramercy Tavern, Todaro Brothers Restaurant, Applebee’s Restaurant, Harlem Children Zone Charter School Cafeteria, Hamilton’s Soda Fountain and Luncheon, and many more.

*Written by Judy De La Cruz, Training Coordinator, The Fortune Society 

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