In the beginning we were inspired from our big kitchen and the possibilities it gave us to train people. We knew immediately that we wanted to give people opportunities to learn how to cook.
In 2019 autumn, we didn’t know exactly who these people were or should be, people who wanted to learn how to cook as a hobby or people who want to become a cook, make a profession out of it? And where were all these people?
Then we had the reality in front of us, thousands of shortages in the kitchen department in Amsterdam, but also in the Netherlands. We could definitely turn this around, but we needed to think big and take the right steps.
That’s then we started to search for organizations to collaborate with, and find people that could use our help. It took us a while to find our current path, but we did it.
Soon enough in November 2019, we met some pioneers from the Gemeente Amsterdam, where people, we call “statushouders”, which we can translate to “refugees with a work permit” being trained in basics of cooking in a kitchen belonging to the City of Amsterdam itself. They were taught several things like basic Dutch, basic kitchen hygiene and basic cooking skills, like chopping, mise & place for events and more.
Discovering the Possibilities of Cooks25
One day, at the end of November 2019, we were invited to a three-course dinner organized by the municipality of Amsterdam, to show the newfound skills and the abilities of new starting cooks. We were very impressed with the organization, but most impressed with the people.
Each participant is looking for a good place to feel welcome and take their skills to a higher level. Once we finished the diner, we had the opportunity to meet and briefly speak to all of the new cooks. We were granted permission to invite them to our program. In this time, we met with 21 organizations and gastronomy entrepreneurs, and these 10 starting cooks. We were able to convince 4 of them to come and work with us, within the permission and the blessing of the municipality of Amsterdam.
The Start of a Journey
We made an agreement to start to the Cooks25 course in December, when Kanteen25 would officially open it’s doors. Once we opened, we had a small team of six students to be trained. In this time, we hosted several events, small & big, from four course dinners to 300 people walking dinners. We took our students through every step of the organization and process to show them, it isn’t only picking up the chefs knife, putting your head down and cutting things.
After two months of trainings, one of our students decided to study hospitality further and went back to school, one went to a hotel as a breakfast cook and two of the students got their jobs in Kanteen25 as cooks to help the production.
In the second term of the Cooks25 program we were able to apply our learnings and increase the size of the program to 14 students. The course resumed at Kanteen25 in May, with a warm introduction between the organization and our students. This time we had more possibilities, not only to teach how to cook, but also, become a bartender, waiter, cocktail mixer or even a housekeeper.
From then on, everyone within Kanteen25 could see the incredible result the Cooks25 program had on everyone involved. The team felt energized by the new faces and the fact it was having a positive and potentially life-changing impact, and the students were able to settle into a new and unfamiliar environment with a set of skills that are universal across organizations.
The rest of the story is still being written.