The helping hands of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program

Hard economic times.

It’s a phrase that much of America has become all too aware of in the past few years. For some, however, it’s been the status quo for decades. Despite living in the “land of plenty”, many families in the United States manage to have just enough to get by. Quite a few have even less.

In these families are young ones with talent and a desire to do something more with their lives, though achieving those dreams can be complicated without the proper resources. Fortunately for some 100,000 students (so far), an exceptional program exists to help make some of those dreams come true.

The Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) was established in 1990 with the mission to promote and provide career opportunities in the foodservice industry for underserved youth through culinary arts education and employment. It’s a mission they have worked hard to live up to, and have done so with great success.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Joyce Appelman, the communications director for C-CAP:

Foodie Journalist: Since C-CAP was established in 1990, how many students have benefited from the program?
Joyce Appelman: C-CAP addresses the needs of underserved young people by using cooking as a dynamic tool to empower students for college and the workforce. The program has taught more than 100,000 students since it began, and as a result provides outreach to thousands of its alumni.

FJ: How many current students are benefiting from C-CAP support?
JA: We work with 176 public high schools around the country to support culinary teachers and to help students prepare for college and careers in the restaurant and hospitality industries. C-CAP has taught more than 12,000 students this year.

FJ: A big thing that helps kids coming out of high school is going to be scholarships. What type of financial support has C-CAP been able to provide to students through scholarships over the years?
JA: The C-CAP Cooking Competitions for Scholarships are the culmination of the year-long program for underserved teenagers at risk of leaving high school without job or college prospects. The program offers direction, a set of useful skills, scholarships, and the potential for a fulfilling career in a growing industry. Seven competitions and awards ceremonies were held this year, and we are proud to announce that since 1990 C-CAP has awarded more than $37 million in full- and partial-tuition scholarships to culinary colleges and universities that offer a broad range of culinary arts and hospitality-management courses, along with cash awards to help defray the costs of books, supplies, housing, and other expenses while at college.

FJ: Is there an annual average that C-CAP tries to maintain?
JA: We manage the largest independent culinary scholarship program in the United States and plan to award more than $3 million in scholarships and opportunities annually.

FJ: How does C-CAP assist with job placement and internships?
JA: C-CAP is very successful in placing alumni and high school students in the culinary industry and strives to continually enhance this important aspect of its program. The process begins with the C-CAP Career Advisor, providing support to high school students and alumni through monthly email blasts and individualized job searches. Services include resume writing, researching and identifying job opportunities, interview coaching, networking, job referrals, coordinating job shadow visits or trails, and general career advising and guidance. Due to C-CAP’s relationships with employers in the food industry and alumni outreach, C-CAP has been able to successfully place many graduates in culinary related jobs. This ability to match C-CAP alumni with job opportunities is being further enhanced by a new on-line job matching\search site that is being launched soon by a social media expert in conjunction with a C-CAP alumni. This site will specifically identify C-CAP alumni, and potential employers will recognize these grads as having advanced culinary training.

For the high school students, we host C-CAP’s Summer Job Training & Internship program, which is designed to prepare high school students for challenging work in professional kitchens. The program is divided into two distinct portions: a five-day intensive “Job Training” workshop followed by a seven-week paid internship in a professional kitchen at a restaurant or corporate dining facility. We also hold Career Exploration and Job Shadow events annually.

Chefs and restaurateurs reach out to us throughout the year to recruit our students and alumni.

FJ: Are there any plans to expand where C-CAP offers programs?
JA: We are continuously asked to expand our programs in the areas where we are located and in other areas nationally. We recently expanded our Prince George’s County Program into the District of Columbia. In addition, we are meeting with school officials in suburbs and states that border the Philadelphia region, who are very interested in integrating the C-CAP program in their schools. In response to demand for our program, we have started to offer our C-CAP curriculum enhanced with limited support services to schools in locations that are outside our program area. This Friends of C-CAP Program provides needed guidance to culinary public school programs, but does not include our complete list of services and scholarships which are provided to our members.

In our member program, we use a multi-pronged approach that includes professional development for high school culinary teachers, and college and career support provided to students through scholarships, workshops, job training, internships, and related activities. We help young people take the first steps to success in an industry where talent, skill and dedication can lead to advancement in all areas of foodservice and hospitality.

FJ: Finally, what are some of accomplishments that C-CAP is particular proud of from this past year?
AJ: C-CAP continues to find new and innovative ways to break the cycle of poverty by providing programs and services year-round to our teachers, students and alumni in the culinary arts.  This year’s highlights include:

  • Enhancing our curriculum with state of the art video technology provided by the Rouxbe On-line Cooking School.
  • Increasing the number of high school students who can participate in our paid summer jobs internship programs.  For example, the number of students participating in NYC this summer will be almost double of what it was last year.
  • Increasing and broadening the scope of opportunities for high school students with hands-on events such as four students having the experience of taking a private cooking class with star chef Todd English and then joining him for dinner.
  • Increasing scholarship opportunities for high school students, including $10,000 in scholarships from The Monday Campaigns for the top three C-CAP students in a healthy recipe contest, with the next year’s winning student and teacher to get an additional benefit of an all expense paid trip to Canyon Ranch. [C-CAP Press Release]
  • Increasing and broadening the scope of scholarship opportunities for alumni, which included this year, hospitality management scholarships at the French Culinary Institute and ICE.
  • Enhancing our social media program.  In addition to Facebook, we have a blog and are now on Twitter.
  • Broadening our list of premier product sponsors, which includes, Guittard Chocolate, Best Manufacturers, Blue Diamond, Filippo Berio, MOZO Shoes, Nielsen-Massey Vanillas, Uhlmann Co. These wonderful companies provided desperately needed products to our schools during these difficult economic times.
  • Increasing awareness of C-CAP.  Who can forget the tremendous opportunities presented to C-CAP by the Food Network.  This past year, we had four alumni on the Food Network.  Kelvin Fernandez came in second on Chopped and Lester Walker came in first place on Chopped and won $10,000.  Lasheeda Perry won $10,000 on Sweet GeniusYvan Lemoine, another C-CAP alum, is competing on Giada’s team on The Next Food Network Star.  Best of all, star chef and C-CAP Board Member, Marcus Samuelsson, won $50,000 for C-CAP on Chopped All-Stars.


Watch some highlights of Lester Walker on Chopped:

To learn more about the Careers through Culinary Arts Program, be sure to visit their website at Remember that they are a non-profit organization, so every little bit helps

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