We are always looking for new ways to help our residents pursue their passions and build their skill sets for future employment.  In recent years, we’ve seen more and more of our residents show an interest in the culinary arts, so we began looking into ways to foster that interest and help them grow it into a marketable skill. 

Then we learned about Open Gate International.  Open Gate International offers a culinary training program that mentors and trains men and women to provide the knowledge, skills and abilities to obtain meaningful employment in the culinary field.  It is designed to be a complimentary component to other organizations, and they are always looking to create and grow relationships with other partners.

Upon learning about Open Gate International, our Food Services Manager, James, met with the Open Gate Director and Chef, to see if our organizations would be a good complement to one another.  Generously, Open Gate offered a full scholarship for one of the men in our program that was interested in the OGI program, and discounted the fee for another two, which made this incredible opportunity possible for them!

Months later, after the completion of the Open Gate culinary program, two of these culinary program students have full-time jobs in the culinary field: one at a local restaurant and one at a catering company!  The third student will be completing the employment workshop through our Village of Hope program this week and then seeking full-time employment in the culinary field as well. 

All three men enjoyed the program immensely and benefitted greatly.  One of the students, Jason, shared his thoughts on the Open Gate program, and the amazing opportunity that he has to turn a passion into employment!

Describe your interest in culinary arts.

I’ve been on my own since I was 17, so figuring out how to prepare meals for myself was a huge priority.  As I got older, I realized cooking came easily to me.  When I got to the Double R Ranch, I really dove in [to cooking] and stretched my limits and [put my] imagination into what I could create.  My interest truly stems from the fact that I think of making food as an art – like a painter paints or a musician plays guitar.  I take multiple ingredients, flavors, cooking platforms and utensils, and mixtures of styles and ‘paint a picture’.  But where a painting lasts forever, my artwork disappears and then I start all over and create something different and new.

How has the culinary program made a difference in your life?

It was personally important to me because, like Orange County Rescue Mission, the OGI program gave me the ability to start, work through, and finish [something] with success.  It showed me that I might have failed at other times in my life, but this was not going to be one of those [times].  I knew certified accreditation would help immensely when looking for employment.

From the very beginning of class, the entire OGI staff made it very clear that they meant business!  They were there to help and motivate and, if taken seriously, the skills learned through the program could provide tremendous future [benefits] to our daily lives.

Would you like to share any other experiences or thoughts?

Due to the fact that I have been a student at Orange County Rescue Mission – at the Double R Ranch and the Tustin Veterans Outpost – for 18 months prior to enrolling into OGI, I had a huge head start in class in terms of focus, accountability, leadership, and the willingness to be humble and teachable.  I made sure I was always the first one to show up, worked as hard as I could, asked as many questions as I needed, and was the last to go home.  The level of compassion everyone [at OGI] has is unmatched.  I am a better person for having been involved with them.

Thank you Open Gate International for providing this incredible opportunity to our residents!  We are so grateful for this developing partnership!

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