Taking Culinary Training Online in 2020

December 10, 2020

FareStart’s Catalyst Kitchens network is finding new, innovative ways to train their students during the current crisis. While we try to limit physical interaction and stay physically distant to keep others safe, programs are discovering creative strategies for training students in culinary skills virtually or within a hybrid training model. As of August 2020, 74% of our network is offering a virtual or hybrid job training model.

In these times of challenge and isolation, building a sense of community is more important than ever. Job training programs are an excellent way to create a sense of progress, moving towards stable employment and a new future. While many restaurant jobs are offline right now, there are still job opportunities in grocery stores, high volume frozen food production and or entry level roles outside the foodservice industry are still available to our students.

I like the idea of completing FareStart, even though it’s in a different setting.  Knowing that I’ve walked it out all the way through, that I didn’t give up. I’m very, very proud.”

FareStart pivoted to virtual training in September to bring back 16 students put on hold in March. The new virtual program features a updated curriculum with an emphasis on transferrable skills that are needed in many different job positions. The students accessed various types of virtual training, from self-empowerment to financial literacy and knife skills and culinary clinics with our chef trainers. Training materials are sent to students twice a week in a “mis-en-box,” a play on the cornerstone culinary technique “mis-en-place”. The boxes, delivered directly to students, contain ingredients and tools that allow students to whip up culinary creations. Students still received ongoing support from our social services specialists including securing transitional or permanent housing and regular check-ins.


Rachel, who graduated in late October, says “I was supported throughout this whole time that we were on pause.  I had help financially. I had support in everything that was going on with me. I was never alone.  And then virtual training started, and it felt amazing, it felt like a sense of relief. When I received my first box with my laptop and cutting board and basic kitchen supplies, it was like, ‘okay this is really happening’. I like the idea of completing FareStart, even though it’s in a different setting.  Knowing that I’ve walked it out all the way through, that I didn’t give up. I’m very, very proud.”

FareStart isn’t the only one transitioning to virtual training. Our Catalyst Kitchens members are finding new ways to prepare their students for lasting employment. 

Chef Moe Jordan of the Maryland Food Bank adjusted her curriculum in a matter of weeks when the pandemic hit, graduating their pre-pandemic cohort in May. “I’m like a chameleon,” Chef Moe comments. “I believe that any great teacher can adapt to their environment and make it happen.” (Source: Maryland Food Bank)

Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida, a large food bank in the Feeding America network, is also sending meal kits to their students to keep the learning going at home. These boxes not only serve as learning opportunities, they’re also keeping food in the pantry for their students in a time when resources may be scarce. (Source: Bay News 9) A few members of their team attended our Virtual Train the Trainer workshop this year to develop new strategies for training in a virtual space and providing ongoing coaching support.

Programs are focused on much more than culinary training. Café Reconcile, a youth program member in New Orleans, offers virtual Mindfulness Workshops to alumni as a mental health resource throughout the ongoing crisis. Their trauma-informed approach helps young people manage their emotions and continue moving towards their future, especially in face of the instability caused by the current crisis (Source: Café Reconcile).

FareStart and our member network will continue to find new and innovative ways to train our students throughout this crisis. Aside from providing virtual culinary training, our network is helping their clients secure safe housing, navigate unemployment logistics, obtain licenses and IDs, adapt to technology, and so much more. While we have difficult times ahead, our programs are here for their students and will be as we begin recovery efforts for the nonprofit and foodservice industry in 2021.

To learn more about how FareStart and its Catalyst Kitchens members are adapting to virtual and hybrid learning models for their students through the pandemic, visit their announcements listed below:


Blog Category: 

Job Training

Corinne Molz

Corinne brings experience to her role of Communications Coordinator from her background in event planning, international development undergraduate degree, and her passion for the foodservice job training social enterprise model. Her career goals are devoted to lifting others out of the cycle of poverty through economic empowerment through employment/workforce development. She previously served FareStart as a Catering Captain, Catalyst Kitchens as Program Associate, and currently manages all More