How We Support Chef Trainers

December 4, 2019

On a typical rainy Seattle day in early November, 16 individuals from programs across the country arrived at FareStart for the Catalyst Kitchens Train the Trainer workshop. Catalyst Kitchens is FareStart’s national initiative to bring together foodservice job training professionals for professional development, shared learning, and technical assistance support. Justin Smith, Catalyst Kitchens Program Development Manager led a cohort of Chef Trainers, Instructors, and case managers through coaching and evaluation skills for students over two impactful days.

Day 1: Learning from FareStart

The workshop focused its attention on FareStart’s student evaluation practices on the first day for attendees to learn, observe, and ask questions. FareStart’s programming team holds a weekly meeting that brings together Chef Trainers, who focus on training students in the kitchen and classroom, Social Services Specialists, who act as case managers and meet with students regularly, the Employment placement team, and the Life Skills instructor. Each role is dedicated to student success and provides student support in different capacities. This weekly check in is designed to get everyone on the same page about student progress and their path towards employment.


Workshop attendees got a firsthand look at FareStart’s weekly meetings focused on improving teamwide communication and student tracking. By shadowing these meetings, workshop attendees learned how to avoid general progress notes such as “student is doing well in the kitchen” and learn how to offer full, constructive reports on a given student’s training progression.

The morning was kitchen talk – chef instructors shared how they track student progress and reinforce on the job lessons for students. The discussion ranged from how well a student perfected his salmon fillet grill marks in his final days to a first-week student completing her first basic knife skills training. New students had just completed FareStart’s infamous “carrot day” when new students cut pounds and pounds of carrots in training.

The conversation shifted to employment in the afternoon. The FareStart programs team discussed students close to graduation through the lens of employability and life skills, including examples of how students were measuring their own value, identifying their strengths, and pursuing their employment interests. The group discussed which students were debating multiple job offers, who still had some work ahead of them before they were ready to apply, and the students in between.


After seeing Farestart’s evaluation processes in action, workshop participants were ready. It was time to build the skills to bring this style of programming back to their organization.


Day 2: Developing Coaching & Evaluation Techniques

On day two, the workshop shifted from FareStart programs to preparing workshop participants to bring student evaluation skills and coaching back to their organizations. It was time for training bootcamp.

Catalyst Kitchens’ Justin Smith led the workshop through training principles including coaching feedback, lesson design, assessment, program planning, personal presentation and delivery, and more. Students dove into hands-on activities and practiced their lesson delivery with fellow participants, providing constructive feedback and pointers on how to improve their teaching for diverse learners. 

Participants roleplayed what it was like delivering and receiving directions as though they were students and chef instructors in a real kitchen. Did the instructor provide complete instructions? Was enough time allowed for students to complete a task? Did the instructor deliver the instructions with a potentially combative tone? As workshop participants practiced their instructions, they shared memories of moments that worked well – and those that were total disasters – when teaching culinary techniques to students in the past. By the end of the day, attendees possessed new techniques for discussing student progress and new strategies to use and adapt to students’ unique learning styles.

As workshop attendees packed up and parted ways at the end of Day 2, they eagerly shared hugs, exchanged contact information, and promised to keep in touch. Train the Trainer participants left with the feeling of purpose to continue this work of training students with barriers to employment, and with new strategies to do so. Equally importantly, they left knowing that they were not doing it alone. They were now, more than ever, part of the Catalyst Kitchens Network and the FareStart family.

Our next Train the Trainer Workshop is February 27th & 28th hosted by DC Central Kitchen in the District of Columbia. Click here for more details and to register. Members receive a $250 discount off the workshop fee! 


Blog Category: 

Job Training

Anne Nylander | Resource Design Associate

Anne brings extensive experience to her role as Resource Design Associate from over a decade of work in the specialty coffee retail business. Anne has worked as a trainer, consultant, and coffee industry advocate, and is excited to bring her knowledge to the social enterprise community. In her role, Anne creates powerful resources that bring positive impact to the Catalyst Kitchens member network.