In 2008, the café work program was founded on the Dobbs Ferry campus to help young people find their passion and develop skills. The program helps young people like Akhi with communication skills, relationship building, and job-readiness, and helps them discover a passion for cooking they might not have been exposed to previously.
Students are taught menu planning, costing, healthy portion control and etiquette, and exit the program with a ServSafe certification that allows them to start training for better paying restaurant positions. “My favorite part is seeing the look on their faces that says wow, I did that! It’s rewarding to know that they’ve learned it, done it themselves and mastered it” says Chef Kelli Scott, who runs the café program. The café has also been a very effective outlet for helping young people manage their emotions. “We don’t have as many behavioral issues in the kitchen. Cooking has a way of doing that. With cooking, you have to communicate and talk things out.”
Akhi, who is a sophomore in high school and a CV resident, says that cooking has helped him build friendships. “It’s more than cooking. It’s about being one with your peers. You need a team to help you out.” When Akhi arrived at CV in May, he had barely been in a kitchen before, but now he wants to work in the restaurant industry after graduation. Thanks to Chef Scott, he’ll be prepared to do just that.
The café program has been so successful that it will be replicated in CV’s new project in Inwood, the Eliza, which will hold a new NY public library, universal pre-k center, STEM education center, community learning space, and 174 deeply affordable and beautiful apartments. There, the café program will serve young people in the community by teaching the skills of cooking, building a business, and working in a restaurant. Most importantly, the program will focus on trying to make sure that all young people feel valued and loved, and are given the opportunities that they deserve. The Eliza is slated to open its doors in early 2023!