On the opening day of the new eatery Shovel Ready in downtown Colorado Springs there is anticipation beyond making great food for customers.
“Exciting, because this is a chance to foster young people and pass on what I have spent the last 25 years learning,” said Executive Chef and Mentor, Ben Hoffer.
Hoffer will lead an innovative new program called Culinary Capstone that launches with the opening of Shovel Ready.
It is an apprentice program with the goal of beefing up the pool of people working locally in the culinary arts
“We need to revitalize, we need to get people back into the workforce who are excited and are energized and are educated and get our restaurants staffed up so people can continue to support local independence,” said Hoffer.
‘We are a workforce program that is taking on eight students every six weeks,” said program liaison Madison Ward
Ward is with the Community Cultural Collective which is the non-profit working to revitalize and expand the historic City Auditorium as a hub for the arts in Colorado Springs.
Programs like Culinary Capstone are an extension of the Collective’s mission to expand and promote the arts.
“Just incredible stuff comes out of kitchens. And we want to see more and more of that in our culture in our community,” said Ward.
Because this program is also about strengthening the culinary and hospitality workforce it qualified for a federal workforce grant.
“We want to train people,” said Ward, “But we also want to make sure they're paid. So you, you earn and learn is what we would say.”
Some apprentices may learn the culinary world is not for them.
The hope is more than not will want to continue learning and creating in the culinary arts.
“The biggest outcome of this for any of our students is that we're going to help place them in programs that could lead to them becoming Sous Chefs, Executive Chefs. And then if their goal is to open their own restaurants, that would be the next step,” said Ward.
A half dozen chefs and restauranteurs from the region are on-board as advisors and supporters of the new program.
Executive Chef Hoffer expressed the passion of people in the business, “The opportunity to feed people is incredibly rewarding. And food is such a versatile medium to express yourself with that I think for me, it's a no-brainer. I am in love with this industry."
Anyone over the age of 16 can apply for a Culinary Capstone apprenticeship through the Community Cultural Collective.
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