||Dennis, a graduate of the Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) Culinary Creations Program, shows his Safe Serve certification. With him is Kathleen Hart, the CMC kitchen manager and program instructor. (Contributed photo/Jenny Bruno)
MADISON -- The Catholic Multicultural Center (CMC) has always been a place people can turn to for job search assistance, from a workshop that helps job-seekers prepare for interviews to a walk-in program where people can get aid with writing résumés, cover letters, and more.
One notable program involves direct job training and addresses some of the major problems disadvantaged people have when applying for jobs. This is the Culinary Creations Program and it has a mission: to eliminate barriers to employment for economically disadvantaged people. This program gives people useful employment skills and has the potential to shape communities and change lives.
Graduate praises course
One of the graduates of the Culinary Creations class, Dennis, can attest to the values of this course. I met him at the Catholic Multicultural Center where I was greeted with a big friendly smile and a warm handshake.
Some of the free meals the CMC offers are made by the Culinary Creations Class, which is a hands-on way to incorporate their learning while fulfilling a need of the community. One of the classes was busy preparing food at that moment in the kitchen. Dennis explained how he came across the Culinary Creations program and why he decided to go into the culinary field.
“I actually have a lot of experience in the kitchen prior to the Culinary Creations class,” he said, “but” — he paused with a significant look — “everyone can learn something from the class.”
Dennis heard about the Culinary Creations Program through the Urban League Foundations program. The Urban League and the CMC have teamed up to offer the full Culinary Creations Program, which includes a basic job acquisition and retention skills class for all the students.
His face lit up when asked about cooking with his family. He laughed, “I cook all the time for my family. For my mother — I keep her full. It’s a pleasure.” He also mentioned that he also cooks for family barbecues. “You have to understand,” he said “I love to eat.”
Dennis reflected on why this program is good for anyone looking to improve their cooking skills. “There are some things in the kitchen that are so important.” He said. “For one thing, the sanitation training. You can always learn more about that, and it’s very important for employability.
“For example, it’s important to wash the outside of a melon before you cut into it. No one is going to eat the rind, but as you cut into the fruit you can pull contamination from the rind down into it.”
Serve Safe certification
Through the Culinary Creations Program, students must complete the requirements for a Serve Safe certification. The certification is recognized as proper sanitation training by many in the culinary field.
“I actually have mine with me now,” Dennis said, opening his portfolio to reveal the official certificate. He carries the certificate in his portfolio as part of his resume while looking for jobs. “I also have my letter of recommendation from the CMC,” he said. “I’m very proud of that.”
Among other skills that are important for anyone in the culinary field, Dennis also mentioned that the students learn the language of the kitchen and the work flow of a culinary setting.
Plenty of hands-on experience
According to Dennis, it is clear that the class is not a simple tutorial. The students get plenty of hands-on experience in the kitchen, as well as studying textbooks and participating in classroom discussions.
He smiled as he explained his favorite part of the class, “Preparing and serving the meals for the people who come to eat at the CMC. I’ve grown up in this community, and I remember the CMC from when I was very young. It is a joy to see people you haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years no matter how well they are doing.”
The daily meals at the CMC are always full of people who need a free meal for a variety of reasons. They are all members of our community. Dennis said that a program like this is so important because it is good for the neighborhood and the community.
He also appreciated that the skills learned in the Culinary Creations class could help people find a job in the field. Along with his résumé and other work experience, he now has the Culinary Creations certificate indicating that he completed the 12-week course. Dennis said he is currently looking for a job in the field.
“I could see myself working for the school district,” he said. He had already prepared healthy food for schools through the Culinary Creations Program. “Or even teaching a class here at the CMC. I would love to be part of this.”
The Culinary Creations Program is open to anyone who is motivated to put forth the time and energy needed, but unemployed and having difficulty finding a job due to barriers to employment. Participants can sign up through the CMC.
Volunteers are also needed to help process vegetables with the class and can sign up by calling 608-441-1180 or e-mailing
For more information, visit the CMC Web site (www.cmctoday.org) or follow the CMC on Facebook by searching Catholic Multicultural Center.