St. Vincent de Paul of Alameda County’s Kitchen of Champions culinary training program is an intensive, comprehensive 12-week session for low-income and disenfranchised individuals, many of whom are formerly incarcerated. The program was created in 2007. Kitchen of Champions uses a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on kitchen food handling safety technique, along with case management, job placement assistance and follow-up services for graduates.

Each class, or “cohort,” is kept to a maximum of 25 students. SVdP does not charge tuition for the program. We supply each student with a culinary jacket, a weekly stipend for travel and basic expenses, plus free meals in the Dining Room, and access to other social services in the Community Center, as needed.

There are four main components to the program curriculum:

Food Service Training – This is hands-on, real-world training at SVdP’s commercial kitchen in downtown Oakland. Trainees work alongside and receive instruction from professional chefs and food-service workers to prepare meals that are served in SVdP’s Dining Room or contracted to other nonprofit organizations. The SVdP Dining Room serves up to 800 hot lunches per day, five days a week.

Life/Soft-Skills Training – Students learn how to set goals, improve their ability to work in teams, and make positive life choices. Kitchen of Champions students focus on workplace essentials, such as conflict resolution, stress and anger management, punctuality and personal presentation. These skills help students better approach and integrate themselves into the workforce.

Supportive Services – The students have access to services that meet their daily practical needs. A case manager works with trainees on an individual basis, helping to address particular needs for transportation, housing, health care and money management.

Job Placement Services – SVdP staff cultivate relationships with potential employers, assist trainees in job seeking and placement, and provide follow-up services to trainees after graduation. If they need help with their job search, we offer an open-door support system with resume help and references, among other services. We strive to match graduates with best fits in a variety of food services-related positions, ranging from small restaurant kitchens to catering businesses to larger corporate food service providers.

For more information on the Kitchen of Champions program, please contact (510) 877-9212.

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