Photos courtesy of Dan Dry
Last year, as the Creative Innovation Zone supported by ArtPlace America kicked off in Smoketown, Chef Edward Lee and philanthropist Heather Farrer concocted the idea to begin a culinary training program. The initiative would begin with trainees working with Lee and his team at 610 Magnolia and Milkwood to create a curriculum that would lead to the expansion of YouthBuild Louisville’s current vocational education offerings in Smoketown to include culinary training and an additional 15+ apprenticeships per year.
A year later on September 23, 2015, the Smoke & Soul Pop Up Dinner at 610 Magnolia’s Wine Studio celebrated 4 trainees who have worked over the past year to learn aspects of the restaurant business and culinary industry including front and back of house, menu creation and more.
Ragene McKellery said that before participating in the program, she would “just reach for a bag of chips and a coke,” but now she has a better understanding and appreciation for food and nutrition, and sees new opportunities for herself in the industry that weren’t present before.
Marc Hoosier described how he works 35-40 hours a week at 610 and spends his extra time researching food and exploring new ideas for menu items. He said the opportunity was a way to learn and gain experience without participating in an expensive culinary program that would burden him with debt.
The evening kicked off with past hors d’oeuvres including Benedictine in choux pastry, smoked gouda and pig’s feet fritters and pulled oxtail BBQ sandwiches. The menu exhibited the varying tastes and expanded knowledge of the trainees who worked with Lee to create an amazing experience for attendees.
Nikkia Rhodes, who has been training at Milkwood said that she helped to create the recipes for smoked pork chops with sausage gravy and warm kale salad with roasted okra and Shiitake red pepper vinaigrette, and Hoosier should be credited with pairing fried catfish with jalapeno mint aioli.
“This is just the beginning,” said Chef Edward Lee. “These guys will be the new leaders that help to train the next group [of trainees].” He went on to say that, “It’s important for young kids out there to know, from whatever background they come from, there is a real possibility for a future in the restaurant business.”
To finish off the meal, Marc, Nikkia, Tranika and Ragene dished up flaky peach pop tarts and ooey cake with cream cheese frosting accompanied by basil and buttermilk ice cream.
As Lee said, the Smoke & Soul Pop Up Dinner and the first year of training was just the beginning. We are excited for the program to expand both YouthBuild’s capacity and the ability for young people to find new ways to gain knowledge and experience in the culinary industry.