CHICAGO — A chef whose cooking is well-known throughout the world is doing what he can to help a new generation of culinary creators in Chicago.
It’s been a passion for Rick Bayless over the last few years, and it continues in 2023 in East Garfield Park.
The James Beard Award-winning chef is part of the Impact Culinary Training Program, which is offered free of charge at The Hatchery, 135 N. Kedzie Avenue.
The 12-week course is offered to young adults in Chicago ages 16-24 in underserved areas of the city. Students will be in the kitchen for instruction for eight weeks before having a four-week paid internship at a restaurant in the Chicagoland area.
“What we do is give them what I would call the right skills to be able to hold their own in the best restaurants in Chicago,” said Bayless of the Impact program.
Kassa Tafari of Chicago is one of those in the program this fall and appreciates the training he’s able to get at no cost at The Hatchery. It allows him to explore a passion for cooking that he first discovered from his Aunt Joan.
“Like I said, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have had the joy or the knowledge of what a meal can bring to a family,” said Tafari.
Those who take part in training, according to Impact, will learn about food handling, job readiness, food preparation, equipment identification, knife skills, product identification, storage, cooking methods, and nutrition.
Bayless is among the instructors but others from the local culinary community have also joined the effort, including Matt Miller of Topolobampo and Chicago-based pastry chef Kelly Dull. It’s an education that includes things that happen outside the kitchen as well.
“Things like building great resumes, how to interview with chefs, how to advocate for themselves and to network,” said Miller of the Impact program. “We also introduce them to a host of some of Chicago’s best chefs to sort of begin their culinary journey.”
It’s a deliberate approach to learning the art of cooking, one that student Milan Higgins of Chicago has seen from all of the instructors.
“They take their time with us, which I think is super important in something like this,” said Higgins. “They could just rush and kinda just blow it off and be like ‘Oh, you did that right.’ But they actually tell us if we did something wrong.”
As some of the best chefs in Chicago are trying to do something right to inspire the next generation of creators in their craft.