Friday, August 20, 2010

Savoring the Taste of Success – JobTrain Provides Key Ingredients for Life!

You’ve never seen an Iron Chef competition like the one that took place at the San Mateo Women’s Correctional Center on August 17, 2010.

Inmates partnered with county officials and JobTrain in teams of four – in a unique cook-off. District Attorney Jim Fox, Supervisor Rose Jacobs Gibson, Sheriff’s Captain John Quinlan and Deputy Chief Probation Officer Ken Pesso – exchanged their law enforcement duties to collaborate with people turning their lives around through Culinary Arts.

Chef Elihu Kittell of the jail, was the mastermind behind this activity. However, it’s been in the forefront of his thoughts since 2006 when he launched the cooking program. Kittell felt a sense of urgency to “give back to the community” and recognized the need for a program that would not only provide recreational activities for the incarcerated – but, marketable skills that would sustain them upon their release.

Four years later, he partnered with JobTrain and longtime friend Chef Adam Weiner. Together they instituted a curriculum wherein JobTrain teaches Culinary Arts once a week to the inmates. According to Lieutenant Lisa Williams, “It’s been a fantastic partnership that transitions inmates into employable women - equipped with real training so they can get back on their feet.”

Jenelle DeLugg was in custody when she met Chef Weiner. Her exemplary behavior qualified her for the jails’ work furlough program. She’s made remarkable strides in her life which she solely contributes to the jail staff and JobTrain. “They really believe in us – you can be more than just a criminal in their eyes.” DeLugg was released on August 4th, resides in South San Francisco and is enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program at JobTrain. Her dream is to open a restaurant in Palo Alto with fellow classmates.

Jail is a place of last resort. However the programs it offers and even participation in the cook-off – establishes a new beginning. According to Sheriff Greg Munks, “The goal of the cook-off is to showcase that we have a number of people in our custody. They're our neighbors, and for whatever reason they’ve ended up in jail. Our way of incarceration is now being fused with opportunities and job training. Jobs give people a sense of self-worth and makes them part of the social and economic fabric of community. The cook-off demonstrates that we’re all in this together.”

Four teams consisting of two inmates, one JobTrain student and a law enforcement official, all came together and prepared jambalaya, salmon, black pepper biscuits – and an array of fruit and vegetable salads – and a killer pecan pie.

In the end, Sheriff Greg Munks, Assistant Sheriff Trisha Sanchez, Judge Steve Hall and Supervisor Adrienne Tissier, were tasked with selecting the winner.

It came to no surprise for Sheriff’s Captain John Quinlan that his team, “The Fantastic Four” won. However fellow teammates Amilia Otis and Laura Engman – were literally shocked to tears. Otis, mother of 6, looks forward to attending JobTrain upon release. “I’ve learned my lesson and will never return to jail. Thankfully this program has given me what I always needed – a true sense of purpose.”

Friday, August 13, 2010

Polyvore Visits JobTrain!

In addition to being CEO of Polyvore, the leading community site for online style, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy is a JobTrain board member.

Today she brought 21 Polyvore colleagues to JobTrain for a team-building exercise in collaboration with the Culinary Arts program.

The Polyvore crew was divided into 5 teams and worked with a senior JobTrain student to prepare the following menu:

Soup or salad of team’s choosing


Vegetarian entrĂ©e of team’s choosing

Salmon with corn and Fingerling potatoes (official recipe from Chef Jeff Henderson of the Food Network)

Pecan pie or bread pudding

The creative crew from Polyvore identified their teams as: “Red Hot Chili Peppers,” “Skinny Jeans High Waist Pants,” “Karl Lagerfood,” “10-13” and “Harold & Kumar Go to JobTrain.”

Instructor Chef Adam Weiner, encouraged the teams to be creative, have fun and to trust the team-building process. With laughter and smiles abound, there’s no doubt everyone had a great time.

According to Jen Yuille, Polvore’s Head of Marketing & Communications, “JobTrain is amazing. It’s a very empowering place that has created a great opportunity for team-building.”

After two hours of cooking, the teams were judged by invited guests from the W Silicon Valley and the American Culinary Federation.

Despite the delectable entrees plated to perfection by all the teams – “Karl Lagerfood” won the competition. However, all the participants were winners in their team-building exercise.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jose Rojas - JobTrain Success Story

Jose Rojas represents the "spirit" of JobTrain.

After graduating from their Culinary Arts program in April 2009, he began working at Woodside Terrace as a dishwasher. His professionalism and strong work ethic led to promotion as Assistant Chef - in just one year.

Today, Jose Rojas returned to JobTrain with a major announcement. He's relocating to Mexico and pursuing his dream of opening a specialty dessert restaurant! He credits Chef Adam Weiner for always encouraging him to fulfill his potential and honor his dreams.

In addition to sharing the great news, Jose also came to JobTrain to find his replacement at Woodside Terrace and to advise of (2) other employment opportunities. He said, "JobTrain has been so good to me. It's really the best place to discover your dreams. I want to return what JobTrain has done for me and help current students with job placement."

We all wish Jose the very best!