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UDW Culinary Arts Academy teaches IHSS providers valuable new skills

culinary arts graduation cropped
On Saturday, UDW held a graduation ceremony at our headquarters in San Diego for the first class of the UDW Culinary Arts Academy. The Culinary Arts Academy is a new, free training program for UDW caregivers. We also opened the program up to members of the community, as a way to give back to the community where UDW members live and work.

“I love this program,” said UDW member Esther Torbert, mother of one of the graduates. “It’s taking UDW beyond home care and out into the community. This is a program that helps people out.”

“UDW caregivers who love to cook can have fun doing it while making an extra income to supplement their IHSS pay,” said UDW member and Culinary Arts Academy board member Cheryl Sevier explaining one of the many benefits of the program to IHSS providers.

The Academy provided participants with six months of culinary skills training, as well as valuable training in starting and operating a business, including the creation of a business plan and how to develop a successful website. Many of the participants were brand new to the restaurant world, while others were looking to sharpen their skills in order to take their current career to another level.

UDW Culinary Arts Academy graduate Jiaire Martin and his mother Esther Torbert.
UDW Culinary Arts Academy graduate Jiaire Martin with his mother and UDW member Esther Torbert.

“I am already working as a sous-chef, but this program has been invaluable in the skills I’ve learned both in the kitchen and about handling a business,” said Anthony Magee, a member of the San Diego community. “I have hopes of going into catering in the future and I feel like this program has really prepared me for the challenges associated with starting my own business.”

For many of the participants, including UDW caregiver Michelle Wise, the program has inspired them to become food industry entrepreneurs.

“This is perfectly wonderful,” said Michelle. “It’s a dream come true. I had a lot of ideas in my head about pursuing baking as more than a hobby, but I didn’t know how to put together all the components. Now, not only do I feel inspired, I also feel prepared.”

Michelle is planning to start a business with her daughter using the skills she learned in the program. “Our instructors gave us the tools on how to do it,” she continued. “My daughter and I will start a business focused around cupcakes. This program has reawakened my dreams from long ago.”

In addition to providing valuable skills training for UDW members, the Culinary Arts program is another piece in our union’s social justice mission. By expanding the program to include members of the San Diego community, we were able to engage formerly incarcerated individuals – people who often have the toughest time finding steady employment. “This program has given UDW a way to give the men and women in our communities who were formerly incarcerated hope and an opportunity to get their lives back on track with real, marketable skills,” UDW Executive Director Doug Moore told graduation ceremony attendees.

UDW home care provider and Culinary Arts Academy graduate receiving her white chef's coat.
UDW home care provider and Culinary Arts Academy graduate Nicanora Montenegro receiving her chef’s coat.

Free job and skills training can help people gain the training and confidence they need to secure a job, keep a job, and provide for their families. “I love that it gives people a second chance,” said Esther. “Especially people who were formerly incarcerated.”

This year was the pilot year of the program, which means we will learn how to make it even better with the hopes of expanding this valuable and free training to providers and communities across California.

“This isn’t just about teaching us how to bake,” said Nicanora Montenegro, a UDW member and program graduate. “It’s not just about the skill. It’s also about inspiring us to pursue our passions and maybe start a side business. This program is about lifting us up, and I am excited to hopefully see it grow to other counties.”

Click here to learn more about the UDW Culinary Arts program.