Some of the students who took part in the Eastern Ontario Training Board's kitchen helper program are flanked by project manager Kimberly Vass-Lihou, left, and Keitha Fisher, programming instructor.
CORNWALL, Ontario - Eleven budding chefs celebrated all things food at a graduation ceremony of sorts Friday in Cornwall.
The young chefs spent the last 16 weeks being schooled on the culinary arts as part of a Youth Skills Connection project helmed by the Eastern Ontario Training Board.
A luncheon, attended by local dignitaries including MP Guy Lauzon, MPP Jim McDonell and Mayor Bob Kilger, celebrated the transition of the students' theoretical studies to practical applications in a kitchen.
The students will now move out into food-preparation industry at places like the Cornwall Community Hospital, St. Joseph's Continuing Care Centre, Love Love Food and the Ontario Hockey Academy where they will put their new-found skills to the test.
"I've had the opportunity to be a part of our student's lives for the last 16 weeks and witness first-hand their transformation into successful kitchen helpers," said project manager Kimberly Vass-Lihou. "All of them have shown the initiative necessary to make a name for themselves in the food-preparation industry."
Lauzon told the students they now have a huge feather in their cap.
"In a past life I was an employment councillor," he said. "If a client came in and knew their way around a kitchen I could get them a job like that.
"You can go anywhere now, and get a job."
The program is built around giving at-risk youth the skills necessary to land full-time employment without the need for social assistance programming.
McDonell echoed Lauzon's sentiments.
"Most people were enjoying their summer vacation, but you were here," he said, from the hall at Trinity Anglican Church where the students spent the last three-plus months studying. "It's a great trade to be involved in and a great tool to take on."
Students were presented with gifts from Trinity's Rev. Frank Kirby.
The program will continue this fall and move into rural parts of the community while taking on new students.