Twenty Fountain House members recently completed a six-month culinary training program at Kyotofu, a well-known Hell’s Kitchen restaurant and bakery. The 170-hour class provided a solid foundation in food preparation and presentation and included instruction in food safety, knife skills, vegetables and grains, meats, soups, and a luscious assortment of desserts.
The graduates of the program are now looking for employment with area restaurants or caterers. Additionally, they are working with the Fountain House Employment Unit to prepare for the Food Protection certification exam. This certificate, granted by the New York Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, will demonstrate their proficiency and commitment to the industry and will further increase their marketability.
Fountain House and Kyotofu’s successful community partnership was facilitated by a city-wide grants program. In an effort to mitigate the effects of the recession, New York City Small Business Solutions made funding available so that locally-owned restaurants, hotels, and other service industries could develop paid training internships targeted at hard-to-employ individuals.
Nicole Bermensolo, co-owner of Kyotofu, knew of Fountain House because a number of members had worked at the restaurant in various capacities. Impressed by their strong work ethic and inspiring stories, she approached the organization about partnering with her business for this pilot program. Kyotofu provided an excellent learning experience; a member-staff team from Fountain House provided on-site support to the students and organized a weekly meeting so that they could discuss the class and address any concerns.
Partnerships, such as this, play an important role in the life of Fountain House. They not only provide invaluable opportunities but in doing so, demonstrate both to members and to the community at large the contributions that can be made by people living with mental illness.