SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A local non-profit that helps people with difficult pasts find new futures in the culinary field, celebrated several San Diegans at the Rady Shell Monday.
Kitchens for Good has tuition-free culinary and baking apprentice programs that help people who’ve struggled in the past with anything from incarceration to homelessness start over by launching careers as certified cooks and bakers.
On Monday, six culinary apprentices and five baking apprentices were promoted to the program’s next step. They completed 12 weeks of “skills training” and will now move into 17 months of on-the-job training; Kitchens for Good teams up with employer partners that give the paid, on-the-job training to the apprentices.
“I want to start off thanking my family. Without their love and support every day of my life, I wouldn’t be here today,” said one apprentice during the promotion ceremony. “I want to thank all of my chefs for the knowledge you guys have given me the last 12 weeks, I’m going to be able to take this knowledge into the workforce and one day teach other people.”
“This is our 24th celebration, but to really be back together in-person, having parole officers, family members, grandkids, nieces, nephews, staff, like just everybody together, it’s just a magical day,” said Lindsey Seegers, the Director of External Affairs at Kitchens for Good. “They’re heading into jobs to become fully self-sufficient, to have homes, support their kids, and just have a fresh start in life.”
The program also celebrated five apprentices who graduated, completing the full 20-month training program and receiving their State of California Apprenticeship Certificates.
One of the Employer Partners that the program works with is Avonte Hartsfield, a local chef and owner of Rollin Roots vegan food truck.
“I’ve had an employee come in, and essentially they’re a new hire for me. I would bring them in from the program, train them up on how I do things,” he explained. “My last employee she came in, and she’s on the way to opening up her own concept now.”
Hartsfield’s vegan cuisine quickly became popular in San Diego, and his business was thriving.
Unfortunately, weeks ago, after what he said was multiple incidents of vandalism, the food truck was set on fire, crushing what he worked so hard for.
He was also getting ready to open his own restaurant, but that too was hit just days ago, a vandal breaking the front window.
“Kind of putting that on hold until I figure out what’s going on,” he said. “We’re going to try and rebuild, but right now, I’m waiting to hear back from police about what’s going on.”
As he waits for answers, he said being there for others as they follow their dreams is what gets him through the difficult times.
“That’s just what keeps me going really, is like doing things like that, and like knowing I can help somebody else out,” he said.
The community has rallied behind Hartsfield; a GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $100,000 to help him rebuild his business. San Diego Police tell ABC 10News they are actively working on the case.