Classes offer cooking aid, job skills to less fortunate

By Abigail Loop
Staff Writer

Mission Waco and the Baylor Dining Culinary Program are bringing a few lessons in culinary arts to Waco citizens in need.

A class in culinary arts, part of Mission Waco’s new set of programs to help mold specific job skills for underemployed or unemployed Wacoans, took place Tuesday night at the Mission Waco Meyer Center with five hopeful students.

Jimmy Dorrell, executive director of Mission Waco, said the class will continue to meet Tuesdays and Thursdays for the next four weeks. Participants who complete four weeks of class will graduate with a food handler’s license and possibly a job with Aramark, Baylor’s food service.

“People in the class will learn about food prepping and safety from a Baylor Aramark chef and also learn about moving up the ladder financially,” Dorrell said. “We are an empowerment based ministry and we expect those we serve to step up and be responsible.”

Dorrell said the class targets anyone who is in need of a job or a better job and wants to learn new skills to become more successful.

“Anybody who is considered below the poverty line can join,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is to get these people jobs.”

Ben Hernandez, executive chef from Baylor Dining and Aramark, is one of the chefs leading the class each week and motivating students to earn their food license.

Hernandez said the ultimate goal is getting participants a job.

“The best thing about being involved with this is that on a personal level, I get to give back,” he said. “But on a professional level, you get to take skills and share them and get people working together. Get Waco working is our goal.”

Hernandez said, so far students have learned the basic safety information that comes with cooking, along with some history and knife skills. Then, as classes progress, students will put their skills to use by cutting different meats and even having a competition to see who can cut the best and fastest.

“Everyone is continuing to improve,” Hernandez said. “Self-confidence and knowledge is raising the standards of what they can do.”

One student in the class, James Colegate, said what he’s learned so far is helping him on his way to studying culinary arts at McLennan Community College.

“I always cook for my mom and my brothers and I want to be able to cook for the homeless as well,” Colegate said. “It brings people together. So far we’ve learned about cutting, knife usage, flavoring and seasoning and we’re learning sautéing next.”

During Tuesday’s class, Colegate, along with other students in the class, chopped carrots with careful precision, all under the direction of Hernandez, who would stop to encourage each person.
“Be sure to claw the carrot and press your knife like this,” Hernandez demonstrated to the class, chopping and cutting his own carrot and everyone else following suit.

Bo Wallace, job developer at Mission Waco, said that even though the current program is in its trial run, they would like to continue it in the future.

The culinary class, along with other new job skills programs such as welding and forklift training, will continue if the current classes are deemed successful, he said.

“We just had this kitchen sitting here and wanted to use it and if this program is successful, we’ll be doing it again,” Wallace said. “This is a pre-employment job readiness class and we want to continue it.”

Applications for the class are still available at the Mission Waco Meyer Center located at 1226 Washington Ave.