With so many new restaurants opening in the past few years and unemployment dropping to its lowest since 2008, finding qualified line and prep cooks has become increasingly difficult for restaurant owners. But a recent endeavor at the Emily Griffith Technical College is addressing the issue by getting service-industry hopefuls trained and on the market quickly. The school launches its free Culinary Quick Start program on Monday, January 9.
The college's Barbara Lindsay explains that Culinary Quick Start is a partnership of Emily Griffith, EatDenver and the Sage Restaurant Group, who all came together to create a curriculum that would teach the basics of working in a professional kitchen so students could be job-ready on the first day of employment. Lindsay notes that "the classes consist of industry-driven competencies and training" determined by EatDenver, a network of independent Denver restaurants, and Sage, which runs several restaurants associated with Denver hotels, including Kachina, Departure, the Corner Office and Second Home.
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The program is open to students who can commit to classes five nights a week for a month; the January and February sessions are already booked, but Lindsay says a March session will soon open for registration. Initially, the classes were limited to 25 students, but the large number of applicants convinced the school to add five more students per session. In February and March, two classes of thirty students each will run from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. on weeknights, and the school hopes to continue with sixty students a month thereafter. Funding for the program came from a grant given to the Denver Office of Economic Development by the Walmart Foundation and the Chicago Cook Workforce Partnership.
Many EatDenver member restaurants are providing chefs to teach specific components of the classes, and Big Red F's culinary director, Jamie Fader, will launch the series. "He's the one who comes in on day one and introduces the program," Lindsay explains. "He'll set the tone for the program. We're excited to have his energy and passion."
Other participating chefs include Jeff Stoneking of ChoLon, Jorel Pierce and Jennifer Jasinski of Crafted Concepts, Chris Camp and Korey Sims of TAG, Daniel Bearss and Joshua Castro of Snooze, Burton Koelliker of Osteria Marco, Brad DeFurio and Merlin Verrier of the Kitchen Next Door, Tim Kuklinski of Rioja, Joshua Goodsell of Briar Common, Matt Lewis of Jax Fish House, and Patrick Kelly of Panzano.
Students interested in Culinary Quick Start can apply on the Emily Griffith Technical College website.