THE BELTWAY OF GIVING: From the Classroom to the Kitchen

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Battle of the Bistros, Best New Restaurant Concept Winners ~ The 4 Kings with Paul Cohn

Washingtonians are no stranger to
fine dining. Travel + Leisure and
Food & Wine have both given the
city’s food scene notable accolades, and a
number of chefs have joined the ranks of James
Beard Foundation finalists, including Cathal
Armstrong of Restaurant Eve, Johnny Monis
of Komi, Peter Pastan of Obelisk, and Vikram
Sunderam of Rasika. Yet these chefs weren’t
always on top. They all started somewhere—
perhaps in the back kitchen cleaning dishes as
a teenager, or mirroring their mentor just out of
culinary school. Throughout the District, youth
are being groomed to take the reins of the next
great eatery gaining critical skills to succeed in
the workforce.

Cohn’s Kitchen, founded by Elizabeth
Scott and Paul J. Cohn’s of Georgetownbased
J.Paul’s, Paolo’s and Neyla, is part of
Cohn’s Culinary and Hospitality Management
Academy. Working with local chefs, restaurateurs
and local business leaders, Cohn’s partners
with the District of Columbia’s Department of
Employment Services (DOES) and the Summer
Youth Employment Program (SYEP) to provide
students exposure into the industry.

“Local chefs and restaurants recognize the
need for well-trained employees. Cohn’s Kitchen
youth are educated and empowered by the
opportunity to learn about kitchen management
and leadership, preparation and cooking, recipe
and menu development and restaurant management,”
Co-Founder and Executive Director Elizabeth Scott explains.
“We teach the kids to work their way up and a set of skills that go well
beyond the kitchen. They learn responsibility.”

Like Cohn’s Kitchen, D.C.-based Brainfood
provides after school and summer programs that
allows youth to spread their culinary wings.
Brainfood first opened its doors with the goal of
using food and cooking to provide high school
students with supervised and structured after
school activities.

For two days a week, the All Star Program
introduces participants to life and leadership
skills through food and cooking workshops at
their Chinatown, Columbia Heights and Mount
Vernon Square locations. Graduates of the program
have thrived and gained the opportunity to
work with guest chefs and food industry professionals
like Chef Teddy Folkman of Granville
Moore’s and Chef Sina Molavi of Occasions
Caterers who is also a Brainfood alumnus.

“While driving youth toward a culinary
career has not been our primary goal, it does
certainly happen,” said Executive Director Paul
Dahm. “We have had some participants go to
culinary school, including the Culinary Institute
of America. But the skills we are teaching are
those that translate to and beyond the kitchen.”
Dahm touts the program’s success in teaching
the students reading, math, science and how to
communicate with others and to demonstrate
their creativity. “These are all skills necessary
to do well in school and to compete in the job
market,” he said.

However, the opportunity to learn doesn’t
always start in the kitchen, it can be rooted in
local community gardens. Kid Power has provided
nutritional and service-learning programs for
more than 1,000 youth throughout the D.C. area.
Founded by Max Skolnik nearly a decade ago,
Kid Power tackles issues around food insecurity
and creates budding entrepreneurs one farmers
market at a time.

“Kid Power works with students from lowperforming,
under-served public and charter
schools that typically reside in food deserts. Too
many of our students and their families did not
have access to fresh food, nutritional information,
or cooking classes,” said Skolnik. “We
created VeggieTime to attack the root causes of
food insecurity. Youth and their families manage
city-wide gardens, incorporate high-quality
produce into their daily lives, raise funds through
market sales and support food-related service
projects and advocacy initiatives.”

More than 50 Veggie Time gardens are located
throughout D.C. where students sell a portion
of their harvest at farmer’s markets in Columbia
Heights and Petworth, partake in weekly cooking
classes and local schools harvest sales that
target the surrounding communities and donate
to families in need.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Cohn’s Kitchen: The 2nd annual Battle of the
Bistros takes place July 30th at Clyde’s Gallery
Place. Battle of the Bistros challenges teams of
students to put their summer job training and
education to the test in a friendly competition
for the “Best New Restaurant Concept.” Tickets
are $10 a person at http://battleofthebistros.
eventbrite.com

Kid Power: Visit the Kid Power table at the
Columbia Heights Farmer’s Market on August
4th or donate a greenhouse, gardening equipment
or irrigation systems for their larger garden
sites. Email katie@kidpowerdc.org for more
information.

Brain Food: The 6th annual Brainfood Grill-
Off fundraiser hits D.C. September 13th.
Sponsorships are still available and guests can
purchase tickets at http://brain-food.org/brainfood-
grill-off ?

Jade Floyd is a managing associate at a
D.C.-based international public relations firm
and has served on the board of directors for
several non-profits. She is a frequent volunteer
and host of fundraising events across the
District supporting arts, animal welfare and
education programs. Follow her on Twitter @
DCThisWeek.

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