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Training the Next Generation of Top Chefs

Last fall I was honored to participate in the Job Corp’s Top Chef Competition held on at the Department of Agriculture (USDA).  I must say it was one of the most delicious assignments I’ve ever had!  The competition, inspired by Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food, was a huge success.  Over 20 Food Service managers from Job Corps centers across the country competed in teams to showcase their culinary talents while applying healthy eating principles to their competition entries.

The Job Corps program is a residential education and training program that serves over 60,000 youth annually between the ages of 16 and 24.  Across 124 Job Corps centers, Food Service staff serves three square meals every day to our students.  Thus, it is critical to ensure our meals meet nutrition and health guidelines and requirements.  More importantly, we understand our role in promoting healthy lifestyle practices to our students, who will then apply what they learned in their independent lives after Job Corps.

Many Job Corps centers have established organic gardens.  The 28 Job Corps Civilian Conservation Centers, operated by the USDA Forest Service, have also established gardens as part of Secretary Vilsack’s People’s Gardens initiative.  Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis is a staunch supporter of Job Corps’ “green” initiatives, and has taken a keen interest in our centers’ garden projects.  This has been a wonderful experience for staff and students alike and has sparked good teamwork along with good eating on our centers.  These gardens supply a healthy, natural food supply for our Culinary Arts training programs, Food Services Departments, and even the local communities in which Job Corps centers are located.

I appreciated the opportunity to participate in the Top Chef Competition.  As National Director of the Job Corps program, I am very proud of our accomplishments in making a difference in young people’s lives for 46 years.  The Top Chef Competition is the latest illustration of our comprehensive effort to truly impact our students’ quality of life not just at Job Corps, but in their own lives for years to come.

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