We hear a lot about homelessness during the holidays. Food drives abound. Pictures of the less fortunate find their place on pages previously hosting celeb dish as editors pull holiday heartstrings, highlight stories once buried, attempting to bring life to those in need.
Tonight in Marin, six people will step forward in crisp white chef coats to accept graduation certificates from Steve Cohen, Director of Training for Homeward Bound of Marin. The accomplishment of learning life skills, knife skills, and professional dishwashing skills- an art needed to be taught – is a monumental step for these newly anointed culinary professionals. Just months ago, they were each homeless with a bleak vision for the future. Homeward Bound of Marin is a glistening gem in one of the world’s most affluent communities. The Non-Profit has developed a culinary program focused on training entry level skill sets. If you don’t think the most important person on a restaurant staff is the dishwasher then you have never owned a restaurant. You’ve also never been served a meal on a food specked clean plate, and you’ve obviously never looked into the eyes of a prep cook holding a hot sauté pan, when asking him to move to the “dish station”. On in-the-weeds nights the one person buried amongst stacks of dishes, racks of glasses and containers of silverware is the dishwasher. Believe me, on those nights dishwashers turn kings. Thomas Keller could be the greatest chef in the world. Without clean plates, nobody would know that. For most owners a good dishwasher, an on-time prep person, and a great salad maker are often hard to find and the search is frequently constant due to rapid fire turn over. The entry level wage is seldom enticing and the entry-level skill sets are often low on the training schedule. Adding to the dilemma, entry level is often overlooked by busy chefs and owners. But that’s not true if you step out of Homeward Bound’s Fresh Start Program. Tonight’s graduates are already hired to local restaurants and hotels. And this has been the trend with the graduates. When Orann Crawford graduated from Fresh Start just months ago he was hired at El Paseo, Tyler Florence’s Mill Valley restaurant. At a recent Advisory Board meeting Crawford expressed his gratitude for the program and the pride he felt when Florence approached his station. “I can’t believe how my life changed. I now know that I can fulfill my dream. Do you know what it means to have Tyler Florence tell me I am doing a great job? I can’t explain it.,” Crawford said. And soon, the evening’s graduates, Solomon Anderson, Danielle Cox, Lilyette Gallegos, Denna Harvey, Dina Safford and Josie Samudio will be voicing similar comments as they each step into area culinary positions. Homeward Bound of Marin graduates a new class of pros every six weeks. If you are interested in supporting this program and others Homeward Bound offers or if you are looking for your next executive chef, you should contact Steve Cohen. He not only teaches culinary skills, he knows the major kitchen ingredient is passion. He teaches that well.