IN THE NEWS: New Culinary Program for Veterans Instills ‘Hope and Empowerment’

This story originally appeared in the Daily Courier on April 2, 2015.

Kent Robinson can all but taste the sweet pepper flavor of chiles rellenos cooking on the barbecue grill, and smell stuffed manicotti baking in the oven.

Robinson, 62, is one of eight U.S. VETS Initiative clients enrolled in a just-started, 13-week culinary/life skills course offered through its transitional housing program.

Through the endeavor launched in February, the former U.S. Navy corpsman said he is gleaning commercial kitchen skills he hopes will allow him to prepare these dishes for his fellow veterans, and eventually paying customers.

“It’s very informative,” the pony-tailed, bearded Robinson said of the project arranged through the nonprofit organization that provides housing and career training to some 300 homeless veterans each year. “I’ve always liked cooking, but a lot of this is new to me.”

Beyond the 10 hours of weekend instruction in rudimentary culinary processes, such things as sanitary dishwashing and proper knife slicing techniques, the experiential curriculum taught on-site is meant to impart lessons transferable to employment in today’s food industry. The vocational training requires online instruction throughout the week to enhance the students’ limited computer literacy. Those sessions are tailored to focus on job skills such as how to write a resume, conduct a job interview, dress for success and build professional co-worker and employer relationships.

“This is really exciting; the hope factor and the empowerment,” said Executive Director Annette Olson…

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