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Teaching Real Life Skills in the Kitchen: Move Over Top Chef!

By Rae van Seenus on Apr 16, 2018 at 07:04 PM in UCP WORK, Inc. Blog

The UCP WORK, Inc.  Applied Abilities program in Santa Barbara helps adults with disabilities achieve their professional goals. Many of the participants in the weekly Cooking Class receive the opportunity to learn new skills which will increase their potential as skilled workers in the field of culinary arts. For some, the thought of one day working in a restaurant or bakery kitchen is in fact a goal within reach.

Teaching Real Life Skills in the Kitchen: Look Out Top Chef!
Scott at the stove

The Cooking Class meets in an offsite commercial kitchen every Wednesday from 9:00am - 2:00pm, lead by a highly trained staff with culinary backgrounds and health department certificates.  Participants learn the process of preparing a complete menu from start to finish.  The menu is influenced by a different culture’s cuisine every week; sometimes Indian, occasionally Spanish.  Always following traditions and teaching a bit of food history to the team.  The group takes a vote on the menu for the following week and everyone goes to the store to purchase the items needed.

Teaching Real Life Skills in the Kitchen: Look Out Top Chef!
Culinary Arts Group in the Commercial Kitchen

The morning of class, all participants handle the prep work by dividing into smaller groups and taking on a specific project such as chopping vegetables, setting tables, or peeling garlic.  Once the cooking starts, the level of teamwork and joy in the room is inspiring.  Each individual has an important part in the process.

By the time the food is fully prepared, another group works on getting people their plates.  With masks, aprons, and gloves on, the food is served cleanly and carefully.  On most occasions, the group remains punctual with their food preparation and by noon, everyone is sitting down together to eat.  But class doesn’t end when food service ends.  By 1:00pm, everyone breaks into groups again and assists with cleaning the kitchen until it looks immaculate and ready for use by another business.

Teaching Real Life Skills in the Kitchen: Look Out Top Chef!
Making a big batch of soup

For anyone who has taken part in the Cooking Class at the Applied Abilities program, the thought of one day seeing one of the individuals working in a restaurant, catering company, or industrial kitchen is realistic and inevitable.  The skills and teamwork building they learn will carry into the real world job market making the UCP WORK, Inc. Cooking Class an indispensable training program for adults with disabilities. 

Story originally written by Matt Dursam, Director of Applied Abilities Programs in Santa Barbara. For more information about this Cooking Class or other programs, email [email protected]