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Connecting Food & Futures at Williamson County Juvenile Center

For the past four years, Skillpoint Alliance has been partnered with the Williamson County Juvenile Detention Facility to provide students with a three week Culinary certification training, which ends with the students hosting a pop-up restaurant at the local Eastview High School in Georgetown.

Alongside their instructor, Mike Longtain, the ten students selected to participate in the certification program spent hours each day in the industrial-style kitchen learning techniques and recipes that they will be able to take home with them once their time at the facility is over. The students were not only taught cooking skills, but also kitchen management (timed release of plates and stations), and service etiquette.

On Wednesday, August 2, a hallway at Eastview was transformed into the In Queso Your Hungry Cafe, with a full selection of appetizers (Chili Con Queso, El Cerdo Quesadillas, Garden or Caesar Salad) entrees (El Cerdo Enchiladas Verde, Roasted Cornish Game Hen or Grilled Pork Steak) and desserts (Peach Cobbler or Strawberry Shortcake). All of these options were made entirely by the Culinary students, which received raving reviews from guests;

“The game hen was the best! Incredibly well seasoned.”

  “All the food was very authentic and so good!”

But not only were guests impressed with the food, it was no secret that the actual customer service and smoothness of the event were the overall winner. One Williamson County employee said that she had been coming to Restaurant Day for the past three years and this one was, “the best out of all of them”. While the students who were selected for this program are serving a probationary sentence, they have taken full advantage of the opportunities presented to them, like this class.

At the graduation ceremony the following day, one student Adrian Lee Villalobos, had this to say during his class speech.

“Culinary arts…with cooking it has always been a passion for me, [this program] brought back a lot of memories for me, especially when I was young – to when I would sit in the kitchen and trying to learn what she was doing. It also brought me back to moments where my mom was sick, when I had to feed my little brothers because my mom couldn’t get out of bed. Culinary Arts taught me teamwork and consistency; which I feel are two great skills you can use on a daily basis, any given day. [This class] taught us how to work in a chaotic environment, where there are so many things going and you just have to take a breath and just this whole program has been a blessing to me. So thank you for never giving up on us, throughout the whole experience.”

This certification is just one of Skillpoint’s Gateway program, that has been developed as a rapid-training model to get Central Texans certified and back in the workforce in as little as 4-8 weeks. Participants who apply for this program will receive all certification training, professional development and licensing registration at no-cost to them, barring eligibility. For more information, visit our website: http://www.skillpointalliance.org/gateway