Story and photos by Jenny Martinez
Special to SavorSA
There was more than cooking going on in the kitchen of Ruth’s Chris Steak House this summer.
Starting in July, former foster child and local Ruth’s Chris owner Lana Duke opened her restaurant’s kitchen doors to the kids of Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives and offered some hands-on, real-world culinary training. This summer’s culinary program was the latest addition in Duke’s ongoing efforts to help the children of Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives overcome obstacles and achieve their goals.
The children who showed an interest in the culinary arts were selected to train at the restaurant at 7720 Jones Maltsberger Road under the supervision of executive chef Chris Brooks, who is also a former resident of Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives.
“I’m happy to give back,” said Brooks. “They (kids) are doing an awesome job!”
The participants went through an intensive 10-day training program where they learned the ins and outs of the restaurant business, including food handling and sanitation, food preparation, baking, short orders, meat preparation and front-of-house service.
“We wanted to basically show them what the day-to-day operation is like in a real kitchen. They are going through the same training process as a real Ruth’s Chris employee would go through,” he said.
Even though the trainees learned that working in a real restaurant is no easy task, they didn’t shy away from considering careers in the culinary field.
Participant Jose S. expected the training to be a challenge but is still excited about pursuing a career in the restaurant industry.
“The kids were really excited about the opportunity,” said Rebecca Durand, senior program director of transitional services at Roy Maas’ Youth Alternatives. “Jose was going around telling everybody, ‘I’m going to get a job at Ruth’s Chris.’ I told him keep that positive attitude.”
It wasn’t all work and no play for the curious culinary students. Part of being a chef is making sure the food tastes good. So, it’s no wonder Joe E. said that “getting to eat” was his favorite part of his training.
When their training was complete, the graduates sat down with Brooks and general manager Steve Clemens and were treated to a delicious meal for a job well done.