Pathlight Kitchen is the foundation of our culinary arts program that provides an on-ramp to employment and increased economic opportunity for formerly homeless and low-income Central Floridians.
Our Pathlight Kitchen team has developed a 12-week basic Culinary Training Program, including a ServSafe Management Certification, as well as a separate, 16-hour program in Dining Room and Table Service Skills. Classes are small and offer individual coaching.
Students in our culinary program gain a basic understanding of kitchen safety, fundamental cooking methods and techniques, kitchen and restaurant dynamics and their roles in the food preparation process. Our executive chef trainer designs projects that trainees can accomplish to build self-confidence while he evaluates their strengths and guides them in improving on perceived weaknesses. He also networks with local restaurant groups, catering operations, and country/golf clubs to identify employment opportunities with the potential for more sustainable employment than corporate food service might initially offer.
Classes are held in our modern 13,000 square foot Pathlight Kitchen building, renovated in 2013 through a partnership with Orange County government, which includes three professional-grade kitchens (two banquet/catering kitchens and a baking kitchen), a test/classroom kitchen, as well as event space for up to 150 people. In addition to teaching the tools of the trade, this 12-week program will enable students to understand the variety of career tracks available in the culinary trade.
Our two social enterprise programs, Pathlight Kitchen and Sobik's Café provide training opportunities, real-world practice for students and potential employment opportunities. Through our membership in the national culinary training network, Catalyst Kitchens, we recently obtained a licensing agreement to add Starbucks to the Sobik’s space. We have reconfigured the café space, with an expanded menu, more seating, and wi-fi. This will create additional training opportunities and revenues.
Some of our graduates will benefit from the supportive employment which Pathlight catering/contract food social enterprise and our planned bakery are intended to provide. Others would also benefit from an apprenticeship program. We are exploring American Culinary Federation (ACF) apprenticeship, which would expand our program content and position graduates for paid apprenticeships, leading to higher paying jobs. Our program could bridge the learning gap for students as culinarians in the ACF program.
Program Objectives and Community Support
To date, 30 students have completed culinary skills training and 29 obtained full-time employment at an average wage of $12 per hour (recent placements are mid-teens). Forty students completed banquet training in 2016 and 27 were employed at the convention center, country clubs, and catering firms. Banquet employment is full-time seasonal (October through December and April through June) with hourly rates of $18-25.
We are seeking culinary sector support to expand job training and employment for our graduates, targeting individuals with high barriers to employment. The objectives of this program are: 1) to annually assist at least 36 low-income individuals to graduate with basic culinary skills certification; 2) to annually train 40 individuals in banquet service skills; and 3) to connect graduates with career-path employment and opportunities for advancement that pay 20- 30% above the median wage for this sector.
Need For This Program
Our Culinary Training Program serves a population challenged by barriers to employment. One gap we address is the barrier to training access: we use an open enrollment model. The majority of candidates sent by local agencies are referred to us because their interpersonal skills, formal education, and/or backgrounds prevent them from participating in other programs.
Our philosophy is not to screen out. We’ve found those who are not ready will screen themselves out. Our trainees require a significant level of hands-on coaching. Their self-confidence is low and they are unaccustomed to working as part of a team. Our curriculum involves small classes of six to eight students and teaching more than technical skills.
Funded in part by the City of Orlando, Orange County, and the Wells Fargo Foundation. Pathlight Kitchen does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.
Our next FREE 16-hour Dining Room & Table Service Skills Program is starting May 4th!