One of very favorite things about “food blogging” in Charlotte is the people I meet. Yes, I obviously LOVE to eat and enjoy sharing my experiences with anyone who will listen, but there is a less-talked-about side (but equally important) to this whole thing. And that’s the people.
Here’s a little about a group of awesome people I recently met through EatDrinkCLT.
When Kelsey from the Community Culinary School of Charlotte (CCSC) reached out to me, I’ll admit I had to do a quick Google search. I was familiar with other local culinary institutions but wasn’t quite sure about CCSC. I quickly found out that they are a nonprofit that “provides training and job placement assistance in the food service industry for adults who face barriers to successful employment.”
How can you not be intrigued by that?
I set up a meeting with Kelsey at CCSC to have lunch at the CCSC Café (located on-site and open Mon. – Fri.; breakfast from 8 AM – 11 AM and lunch from 10:30 AM – 2 PM). Everything served in the cafe is made by the students in the back, and each plate costs only $8. They also have a FAB case of pastries and sweets as well as take-home portions of pimento cheese, chicken salad, and more.
After a quick tour and warm introductions, I sat down with her to enjoy a delicious turkey reuben with French fries and to learn more about CCSC.
The school was founded in 1997 and has since seen close to 1,000 at-risk adults graduate from the 14-week program. Students learn all types of culinary skills, whether it’s how to properly cut and slice, how to make a soup stock, or various ways to cook salmon. But even more importantly, they’re exposed to lessons about life (the importance of a positive attitude, punctuality, writing a resume, etc.) that are meant to help them in the working world.
There is no monetary fee for qualifying students of the CCSC program. They do, however, “pay” by dedicating themselves to their work and by helping others in need through home meal preparations, shelter deliveries, and more.
The school makes its money through various means including its catering company, Encore Catering, which launched in 2001.
CCSC Class 59 (they’re currently on Class 60) saw 87% graduate with jobs in the industry and 100% pass the ServSafe exam. Pretty awesome.
I really cannot say enough about the kindness of Kelsey and the rest of the CCSC team. So I was thrilled when she reached out a few months after my visit to invite me to a CCSC Cooking Class in honor of National Culinary Arts Month.
On a Tuesday evening after work, I went back to CCSC to participate in the “Knife Skills and 30 Minute Meals” class with Chef Alvin Howard. We received chef hats, aprons, and recipe books before heading into the kitchen.
Chef Howard first taught us how to properly dice all three veggies found in a “mirepoix” (combo of carrots, onions and celery). While I consider myself a decent onion cutter (thanks, YouTube!) I definitely learned a thing or two about dicing carrots and celery.
Next, Chef demonstrated how to break down a chicken and to thin out larger chicken breasts for sautéeing. He and his team (which consisted of students at CCSC) prepared the chicken for us and topped it with a spinach artichoke spread. Delicious.
He then showed us how to make pan-roasted cod in puttanesca sauce (which is one of my faves: tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic, and sometimes anchovies). While we weren’t hands-on during this demo, we still soaked up knowledge by listening to and watching Chef Howard do his thing. I did have the pleasure of cutting one of the heads of cauliflower for the group (and lucky me, cauli is one of the veggies I’ve been wondering how to properly cut!)
At the end of the night, I left full and happy. My hope is that the organization will continue to offer these cooking classes in the future to expose others to the cause (and opportunity to learn).
Huge shout out to Kelsey and the CCSC team/students for their incredible hospitality and delicious food!
This post was created after a complimentary visit to a CCSC Cooking Class. All opinions are my own.