CHEFS serves the homeless

San Francisco loves food. There’s roughly one restaurant for every 234 San Franciscans. (In New York, the ratio is one to 440). With every type of cuisine imaginable, from Pan Asian to fine-dining vegan, it’s safe to say San Francisco is a foodie Mecca. CHEFS is a ministry of Episcopal Community Services Center that trains the homeless to work as chefs in the San Francisco area.

The Peninsula Press reports:

This is where the CHEFS program came in. Sandra Marilyn, executive director of the CHEFS program gets frustrated when people say homeless “can happen to anyone.”

“They’re wrong,” Marilyn said. According to her, it happens to people don’t have a place to go; don’t have a place to fall back upon. Many find themselves going through a revolving door process with shelters. Most homeless people need both support and training to gain employment and stability. CHEFS, in particular, takes a unique approach to skills training, capitalizing the city’s thriving restaurant industry, which provides jobs and guest chef instructors for the students.

Chef Robert Helstrom, executive chef of Kuleto’s, a northern Italian fine dining restaurant near Union Square, says that he is “always looking for really good people.” Kuleto’s boasts a kitchen staff of about 60 employees, which, over the past few years, has included at least a dozen CHEFS interns and graduates. As one of the more advanced students, at CHEFS, Clemons wants to find a job in a place like Kuleto’s where quality is tantamount and the kitchen is bustling.

To make himself more attractive to employers like Helstrom, Clemons is trying to stick to a weekly routine. Along with CHEFS, he attends regular substance abuse meetings, talks with his case manager at his parolee rehabilitation center and leads his own group meetings with the other parolees he lives with.

Marilyn describes Clemons’ strategy as “regimentation,” which, “is a usual way that folks find to stay out of trouble. If they can throw themselves into a schedule, it can serve to take their minds off their problems for a time.”

Clemons still has some obstacles to overcome. He has only been the CHEFS program for six weeks and past experience has taught him how quickly things can change. But Ray sees Clemons’ progress. “He’s like a whole different personality. He’s friends with a lot of the people in his program. I think he’s confident now.”

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