Calling Jamie Oliver: C-CAP

Come back, Jamie Oliver!

Besides his school lunch program, Jamie’s innovative and successful program, fifteen, takes disadvantaged youth and brings them into the restaurant world as a way turning their lives around.

If Jamie returns to America hoping to start the fifteen program and restaurants here, he’ll find at least one American program for inner city youth already working well.

C-CAP helps inner-city youth succeed in the culinary arts by offering classroom assistance, competitions, scholarships and, most importantly, mentoring by working chefs.

So, why the call for Jamie’s help now?

Evidently, the message has not gotten through in Philadelphia, which may stop working with C-CAP.

In an article profiling Sylva Senat, the chef de cuisine at Buddakan, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported that C-CAP is in danger of disappearing from Philadelphia.

Sylva himself is beneficiary of C-CAP mentorship. After he finished the C-CAP program, founder Richard Grausman helped place him at the Sign of the Dove and introduced him to Chef Marcus Samuelsson.

It’s easy to understand the importance of C-CAP just by looking at the numbers:

At the April ceremony, C-CAP presented students from Dobbins, Edison, Frankford, and South Philadelphia high schools with $452,330 in scholarships to Johnson & Wales University, Monroe College, and the Culinary Institute of America. The scholarships are awarded by the colleges, eager to expand their diversity and trusting C-CAP to identify talented minority students. C-CAP delivered $3.9 million in scholarships and $247,000 in classroom supplies to Philadelphia school students between 1992 and 2009, while the school district paid C-CAP $15,000 annually.

The article went on to site Fernando Gallard, the district spokesman who said that the School District might stop working with C-CAP in 2012 because it could get more money by focusing on hospitality. Grausman says, that the District has already told him that C-CAP is no longer needed.

Super Chef spoke to Mr. Gallard about the issue. He claimed that the district is examining why so few schools in Philadelphia have opted to work with C-CAP. He also said that Philadelphia school district has no immediate plans to stop working with C-CAP. However, he did state, “We have to prepare our kids not only for prepping a meal, but also for working in the front of house, doing a budget, figuring out costs, pricing a menu. We want to see more of that.”

Super Chef also spoke to Mr. Grausman about the situation in Philadelphia. He explained that for many years The School District of Philadelphia had paid for C-CAP’s services by funding Communities in Schools which operates many programs for the District . Grausman claimed that the organization has fired a valuable local employee, three years ago, who was coordinating C-CAP well. Grausman believes Communities in Schools is not using funds effectively, and C-CAP stopped working with them three years ago when the coordinator was fired. Subsequently, the C-CAP program saw local funding practically disappear. The little funding it received from the District, the past two years, hardly covered the competition process.

Grausman is still willing to help Philadelphia’s culinary students, even adding budgeting and other money management lessons. “I am interested in working with the school system to improve their program, whether it is front of the house or back of the house.”

Grausman believes that the drop in school participation with its program is due in great part to the District’s lack of support. He has not had the opportunity to speak with the teachers, as a group, in over 3 years and is willing to help Philadelphia’s culinary students and teachers if given the support. “I am interested in working with the school system to improve their program, whether it is front of the house or back of the house, just as we are working with the school systems in New York and Chicago.”

Grausman added that the District claims that the state will not fund culinary programs because of low wages for entry-level positions. He argues that C-CAP has worked extensively with the restaurant industry to create a program that provides high school students with what they need to secure entry-level jobs and move up in the workforce:

Everyone needs to start at the bottom and work their way up. These are 18 year old kids with little or no work experience. To expect that they will be paid $15 an hour is totally unrealistic. The school system is saying that you shouldn’t have to start at the bottom, but industry isn’t willing to pay for knowledge without experience. Everyone needs to be prepared to start at the bottom!.

C-CAP is helping to teach high-school students important fundamentals: arriving to work on time, practicing to master a skill, writing and reading, and being able to do math in your head. Sylva Senat is proof that C-CAP works. More schools need the opportunity to work with the program and reach students who might not otherwise succeed.

Can Jamie help?

He and other American chefs — many already supporting C-CAP — need to speak up and encourage funding for programs like C-CAP that reach youth that might be missed by other programs. Many kids just need skills to get that first job and keep it –- and then keep climbing up.

(Photo of Sylva Senat from the Philadelphia Inquirer

One comment on “Calling Jamie Oliver: C-CAP
  1. Intheknow says:

    Perhaps its because Mr. Grausman does not understand why teachers do not participate.The district has always been supportive. If the program is so good why is it only in 7 cities in 20 years.Also it only focuses on top students with high GPA’s and provides nothing to the average student with middles GPA’s and great skills.. Get the real inside scoop!

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