Classroom TrainingPathlight Culinary Arts Program

Pathlight Kitchen and Catering are the foundation of our culinary arts program that provide an onramp to employment and increased economic opportunity for formerly homeless and low-income Central Floridians.

Chef Chris Marquette and his team have developed a 12-week basic culinary training program, including ServSafe certification; and a 16- hour program in banquet set-up/service. Our classes are small, offer individual coaching and our Executive Chef Trainer has cultivated a network of employers who want to interview and hire our graduates. To date, thirty 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.

Program Details

We are seeking support to expand training and job placement for career path culinary sector employment 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.

We operate two social enterprise programs: Sobik’s Subs and Pathlight Enterprises consisting of Pathlight Kitchen and Pathlight Catering. Sobik’s Subs has been in existence since 2007 providing employment opportunities and training. 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 also create more training opportunities and revenues.

Pathlight Enterprises began in 2013 through a partnership with Orange County government wherein we renovated a 13,000 square foot building on our property into two commercial kitchens, a bakery and catering space. We offer employment certification tracks: Food Handler Safety (4 weeks) and Entry Level Culinary Skills (12 weeks), as well as 16-hour banquet set-up/service training.

Need for this program

Our training program serves a population challenged by steep barriers to employment. One gap we address is barriers 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 aren’t 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.

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 capitalizing on perceived weaknesses. He 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.

Some of our graduates would benefit from supportive employment which Pathlight catering/contract food social enterprise and our planned bakery are intended to provide. We are exploring American Culinary Federation (ACF) apprenticeship, which would expand program content and position our graduates for paid apprenticeships leading to higher paying jobs. We see our program bridging the learning gap for students who begin with often significant deficiencies, enhancing their prospects for success as culinarians in the ACF program.