Extended training program: A recipe for success

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Eddie Kwong presents his tarragon chicken dish to Chef Burpee and answers the chef’s questions with an enthusiastic “Yes, chef!” and “No, chef!” Visitors to this culinary program kitchen lab feel like they are at the taping of reality cooking show.

As a student in the Assistant Cook Extended Training (ACET) Program at George Brown College (GBC) inToronto, Eddie will attend classroom and kitchen lab instruction as well as complete a 150-hour work placement.

The ACET Program was developed by GBC and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) as a training and employment support model. It is based on the Assistant Cook In-School Apprentice Curriculum approved by the Ontario Ministry of Training, Colleges & Universities.

This employment-focused program offers people with a history of mental health issues and/or addiction who see work as part of the recovery process the opportunity to receive training and employment in the food service industry.

Professional chefs provide instruction in classic French cuisine and program coaches offer support with life skills and group dynamics as well as practical help in writing resumes and performing at job interviews.

A former computer engineer who found himself living in a shelter after experiencing addiction issues and a marriage breakdown, Eddie worked hard to get accepted into the program. Now he’s thriving while training for his second career.

“I enjoy all aspects of this course,” Eddie says. “I really like the fact that you can be successful as a chef by planning and making preparations, and then following the plan.”

Eddie’s drive to excel has already paid off. He won the ACET Academic Award, and is putting the same determination and hard work into getting his life back on track.

ACET students learn butchery, baking, knife skills, small and large-quantity meal preparation, food safety, budgeting and meal planning, all in state-of-the-art culinary labs equipped with professional tools of the trade. One student exclaims that after all his hours of practice with his knives and tongs, they’ve become part of him and now feel like an extension of his arm.

Eddie had never done any baking before beginning the program but in June he baked the strawberry shortcake dessert for the graduation dinner of the 2010 ACET class. This year’s class planned and executed the entire menu for the celebration, which included 2010 grads and their families.

Students with the program complete work placements in traditional restaurants as well as in food service kitchens in retail food stores, hospitals, long-term care facilities, community agencies and entertainment and sports venues.

Job coach/Job developer Erin Sawyer says, “Over the years, we’ve developed great relationships with various local employers. Students get a chance to use their culinary skills in professional kitchens as well as improving their marketability to re-enter the workforce. Employers get well-trained staff anxious to go the extra mile.”

Over the last four years, as many as 76 per cent of students have attained food service jobs upon graduation.

At the end of a recent small-quantity food lab, the students’ excitement at starting their placements and planning a meal to honour the previous year’s grads was palpable. Mastering new vocational skills and life skills add up to successful recipe for recovery.

 

For more information about the George Brown College Assistant Cook Extended Training (ACET) Program, please contact: (416) 415-5000 ext. 6790 or auged@georgebrown.ca.