Chef Apprentices’ Talents Shine at the Hillsides Culinary Apprenticeship Dinner

Left to right: Charlie Negrete, Geoff Jennings, Joseph M. Costa, Alexandra Poer, Claud Beltran, Correnda Perkins, Joshua MathieuLeft to right: Sommer Cripps, Breanne Collier, and Jesse Cripps.  Jesse Cripps is Hillsides board chair.Left to right: Angeline Yu and Geoff Jennings.  Jennings is the owner of Nomad Ice Pops.Left to right: Charlie Negrete, Geoff Jennings, Joseph M. Costa, Alexandra Poer, Claud Beltran, Correnda Perkins, Joshua MathieuL-R: Correnda Perkins, Joshua Mathieu, Cinnamon Kaufman, Melanie Gamboa, Angeline Yu, Geoff Jennings, Ricky Porter, Claud Beltran, Breanne Collier, Alexandra Poer, Charlie NegreteL-R: Breanne Collier, Alexandra Poer, and Ricky PorterCharlie Negrete (l) and Geoff Jennings (r)Chef apprentice Ricky PorterCinnamon Kaufman serves up dessert.L-R: James Valeriano, Jennifer Vanderpool, Joshua MathieuJennifer Vanderpool and Joseph M. CostaPlating the salads

STAFF REPORT

3:00 pm | August 26, 2019


Ten youth had only 10 weeks to learn the rudiments of cooking, customer service, and kitchen etiquette while participating in Hillsides’ Youth Moving On (YMO) summer Culinary Apprenticeship Program. However, on Sunday night, August 25, with the help of four local professional chefs, the youth prepared and served a flawless five-course “Summer in the Garden” dinner for 65 Hillsides guests.

“I could not be prouder of these young adults, and the hard work, discipline, and commitment they displayed throughout the summer as they slowly but surely mastered a wide array of culinary skills, from learning how to slice an onion to making home-made ice cream,” said Correnda Perkins, Hillsides’ division chief of community based services, who oversaw the program. “All of their efforts paid off, and the chef apprentices were able to create a delicious dinner worthy of any fine dining establishment.”

The menu consisted of parmesan-stuffed mushrooms and vegetarian carrot ceviche with tostaditos for appetizers; a salad with mixed lettuce, stone fruit, burrata, and griddled ciabatta crostini for the first course; rigatoni with cherry tomatoes and basil pesto for the second course, and grilled and sliced flat iron steak with arugula shallot chimichurri, corn pudding, and seasonal farmer’s market vegetables. For dessert, the chefs-in-training prepared brown sugar blackberry up-side down baby cakes with cardamom gelato.

Working hard in the kitchen along with the youth were professional chefs Claud Beltran, co-owner and chef at Bacchus’ Kitchen in Pasadena and co-owner of Claud & Co Catering; Charlie Negrete, former chef director of the culinary job training program at LA Kitchen who has worked under Michelin-starred chefs and 5-Star establishments; Alexandra Poer, chef-owner of alexandra’s table with a 26-year culinary career; and Geoff Jennings, owner of Nomad Ice Pops. Doug Fore, the executive chef/director for Hacienda La Puente Adult Education Culinary Arts program and the owner of two restaurants in West Covina, also helped train the apprentices but was unable to attend the final dinner.

At the end of the dinner, Joshua Mathieu, YMO’s workforce development specialist, presented the youth with a certificate and read from the youth’s prepared statements about what they each liked best about the program. One youth, Ricky Porter, said that “he fell in love with the entire process,” and was inspired even more to open up his own café. Other chef apprentices’ highlights included the friendships made, the togetherness forged in the kitchen, and the chance to learn from notable chefs.

Mathieu also presented the chefs with personalized wooden spoons to commemorate their participation. During the evening, guests also watched a short video with highlights of the 10-week program.

Hillsides board president Jesse Cripps and his wife Sommer were among the guests. Also attending were Hillsides’ president and CEO, Joseph M. Costa, Stacey Roth, Hillsides’ executive vice president and chief operating officer, other Hillsides staff, Hillsides supporters, and family and friends of the chef apprentices.

Youth Moving On, which offers a continuum of support services for transition-aged youth 16-25, launched the Culinary Apprenticeship Program in June. The aim of the program is to help young adults, some of whom have faced challenges such as foster care and homelessness, receive the mentorship and support they need not only to gain hands-on food prep and cooking experience but to achieve their full potential in life. Many of the skills learned in the program can be transferred to other fields beyond the culinary profession.

Each week during the 10-week program, one of the participating chefs gave the youth a cooking lesson, from grilling up vegetables to searing steaks to preparing salads. Starbucks was also another important partner in the program. Overseen by Starbucks district manager Jennifer Vanderpool, local Starbucks managers provided customer service workshops for the youth and treated the chef apprentices to a fun day behind the counter at a Pasadena Starbucks where they learned how to make their favorite coffee drinks. Starbucks also provided coffee at the “Summer in the Garden” dinner.

The Culinary Apprenticeship program is a pilot, and YMO hopes to continue it in the future with new groups of youth.

Hillsides’ YMO program is one of Hillsides’ five core programs and includes a Peer Resource drop-in center, housing services, and workforce development. To learn more about YMO, please visit youthmovingon.org.

About Hillsides

Hillsides is dedicated to healing children and young adults, strengthening families, and transforming communities through quality comprehensive services and advocacy. Headquartered in Los Angeles, the agency serves almost 17,000 children and families in Southern California throughout more than 40 sites, including school-based mental health offices in Los Angeles, Pasadena, and Baldwin Park. Foster care and adoptions services are offered in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Bernardino Counties. To learn more about Hillsides, please visit www.Hillsides.org. Visit Hillsides on Facebook @hillsideschildren, on Twitter @Hillsides, or on Instagram @HillsidesPasadena.