Four years ago, the California Men’s Colony (CMC) and Cuesta Community College teamed up to offer incarcerated students an opportunity to learn valuable skills that are transferable from the institution to the community.
The Culinary Arts Program, which is accredited through Cuesta Community College and taught on-site by Chef Rosanne Feild, provides students with real-world skills that can be applied at all levels of food preparation in the service industry.
A $108,000 grant was used to purchase a mobile kitchen unit for the program before it began. The mobile kitchen, which is solely used by the program’s participants, allows students to have access to an assortment of modern kitchen appliances not typically available in an institutional setting.
The curriculum teaches students how to read recipes, make proper measurements and to become proficient in fraction-based arithmetic in order to ensure recipe ingredient amounts are increased or decreased properly. Once the basics are covered, students learn how to cook meals using a variety of methods including smoking, deep-frying, braising, roasting and other commonly used culinary techniques.
In celebrating the program’s 10th graduating class, students prepared a meal for guests who have been instrumental in ensuring the program’s success. The meal included vegan and non-vegan menu items such as lentil soup, chimichurri chicken or Portobello mushroom sandwiches on fresh-made focaccia bread, Asian slaw, potato wedges and assorted desserts.
Incarcerated student Frederick Young said the program has shown him that everyone needs the help of others in order to succeed. Young said the type of rehabilitative programs and educational opportunities offered today by the CDCR give people a real chance to succeed when they reenter society.
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