After 10 years working in the food industry, Tahlia felt stuck. She lacked the training to improve her skills or get her foot in the door somewhere else.
“I worked in a corporate cafeteria, as a line cook at different restaurants, at an open kitchen…But I want to be in a bakery. There’s something wonderful about watching people pick out a dessert. There’s a lot more room to be creative, too,” she says.
She found the Community Kitchen culinary job training program at the Rhode Island Community Food Bank on Craigslist, and came in for an interview, ending up across the table from Chef Heather who started the program nearly 20 years ago. She was a little intimidated by that experience.
“I wasn’t familiar with ServSafe, like what temperatures foods need to be kept at, or how to cook proteins. Life skills was a big thing too. I had a resume before, but I didn’t really know what to do about gaps in my work. Now it presents much better. I’ve improved my time management a lot. I feel like I’m a better person than I was at the start of class. With the communication training, I’ve learned to accept help and how to help people.”
Another skill she learned was how to network.
“I had never heard of LinkedIn, but now I have an account. And I’m introducing myself to people. When I started my new job, we passed this guy at a desk in the basement. Before, I wouldn’t have given him a second thought. But I went over and introduced myself. Turns out, he was the restaurant owner! So now he knows who I am.”
To get by during the 14-week 35-hour unpaid program, Tahlia has worked part-time, borrowed money from siblings, and relied on her boyfriend to help cover the bills.
“I wasn’t prepared for the take-home aspect of Community Kitchen,” she says, “so I’ve really had to learn how to balance my commitments.”
Tahlia is now working as a chef at the Bayberry Commons Nursing and Rehabilitation Facility in Pascoag, Rhode Island.