DC Central Kitchen is the nation’s first and leading community kitchen



What is DC Central Kitchen? Although it may seem like a simple question, the answer is complex.


Since 1989, DC Central Kitchen has been tackling hunger and fight against poverty and provided vocational training and created job opportunities.

Yes, DC Central Kitchen does all of that and more.

DC Central Kitchen was created by Robert Egger to free people from conditions of poverty. The nonprofit organization provides professional culinary training and brings healthy food wherever it’s needed, including schools and DC-area convenience stores. It also operates quick-service cafes offering nutritious meals

“We do workforce development, providing skills training and career opportunities for members of our community who face barriers to employment,” said Alex Moore, Director of Development. “The focus of our work with the NBA Foundation is to work with young people between the ages of 18 and 24 who have encountered barriers to employment. We also work with adults who have experienced conflict with the law, the homelessness, substance abuse and incarceration.

“The vast majority of our graduates work in hotels, restaurants and institutional cafeterias. We are also our best recruitment partner. This is what makes our training so special. Currently, 100 of our graduates work for us full time. They work as culinary instructors, on-site mentors, café managers, and mentor the next generation of students who come behind them. It makes for really cool, authentic, and rewarding relationships.

Culinary Job Training graduates who work for DC Central Kitchen prepare more than 10,000 meals a day for the city’s schools, shelters and nonprofit programs.

“Our training program is three months long and it’s full-time,” Moore said. “Young people are making a serious commitment to this program. They meet us in different ways. They can meet one of our recruiters at a community event. They can come to one of our facilities and request an application. They can visit one of our cafes. Our program is intended not to throw barriers in front of people who are looking for a culinary career. We are looking for people who are passionate about the industry and demonstrate a level of readiness for the operation of our program. It’s a mix of knife skills and life skills. Students work in the kitchen practicing all of these practical skills. They graduate with several industry-recognized certifications in the restaurant industry. »

Although you graduate from the program and are ready for a career in the culinary industry, DC Central Kitchen provides you with other skills to help you in life.

“A lot of what we work on is about those job skills,” Moore said. “Building that self-confidence. Building that sense of self-presentation. Being able to articulate a clear path for yourself and how this program and the work you get out of it is going to help you settle in for the long term. Our empowerment course is what students identify as what excites them the least on Day 1, but it’s what transforms them the most by the end of the program. “

There have been over 2,000 graduates since the program began. With help from the NBA Foundation, DC Central Kitchen was able to open a second job training cafe.

“After about nine weeks in the kitchen, our students do an internship at one of our social enterprises,” Moore said. “We talk to them about mock interview practices, resume preparations, salary negotiations, what you can ask for and how you make the most of this opportunity. After they graduate, we offer them two years of support and follow-up.

Mykel T., a graduate in Culinary Vocational Training, is a cafe chef at Marianne’s Café by DC Central Kitchen at the MLK Jr. Memorial Library in downtown DC

“The program put me in a position to know what to do physically in my job,” he said. “Cooking is one thing, but customer service and the ability to communicate with different types of people is another factor. This is something CJT focuses on, and I think these lessons are good learning tools.

“Empowerment made me look a little deeper into potential issues with my approach to work and personal situations. It’s always good to pay attention to potential issues. We had a lot of conversations, but the main thing I “I hold back is the value of hard work and consistency. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’ve been through before, as long as you stay consistent and work hard, you can accomplish anything. All you need is to have the faith.”

For over 30 years, DC Central Kitchen operated primarily out of a basement. This fall, he is moving into a state-of-the-art 36,000 square foot facility equipped with offices, kitchens and classrooms and will allow the program to reach more people.

“We’re really excited and looking forward to getting to work in this new space,” Moore said. “As important as the work we did at the former institution, as transformative as the work of our students at this institution, we know that our students deserve better and can be even more ready for the next stage of their careers. . They will have modern and dignified spaces for training and learning. The fact that our new facility will not only have a fully modern classroom for in-class learning, but a fully state-of-the-art kitchen, on-site cafe so students can be part of this comprehensive effort of cooking at the table. They will be able to practice their skills in each of these contexts, working alongside former students of our training program in our production kitchen. They will work with volunteers and have it all under one roof where they can constantly develop their skills and their confidence will transform our work.

For more information on DC Central Kitchen, Click here.

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