Valentine’s Day and Some Culinary Black History

It was a sugar-sweet fueled day at NECAT this Valentine’s Day, starting with a breakfast spread that included mini pancakes, a hot chocolate bar, and homemade cookies.  

Students later enjoyed a demonstration from Chef Instructors Tiara Andress and Chris Faison who made a sweet version of hush puppies – filled with chocolate chips and topped with strawberries and toasted marshmallows.  

Hush puppies are typically savory deep-fried balls of corn batter. There are a few different origin stories for how these fritters got the name “Hush Puppy,” but some trace the term back to Black Southern slaves who would fry up the cornmeal mixture to feed to the slave masters’ dogs to “hush the puppies” when they needed them to be quieted.  

What is certain is that hush puppies are a staple of Black Southern American cooking and can often be found as a side dish for communal meals like fish fries and BBQs. For Chef Andress, a native-Mississippian, hush puppies have always been a part of her cuisine and she wanted to share this sweet treat with students as an example of Black American cuisine. 




NECAT Receives Life Science Cares Grant


The Life Science Cares Foundation is a consortium of life science companies operating in four communities: Boston, Philadelphia, San Diego, and the Bay Area. On February 1, the Boston affiliate announced their generous donation of $1.5 million to 28 organizations that work to close the gap between income and education opportunities across the Greater Boston area. Life Science Cares selects nonprofit partners based on historical success in providing effective services to those in our communities who are impacted by poverty.

NECAT is proud to be recognized for its efforts in solving some of the complexities caused by poverty and a lack of access to basic needs and opportunities. This grant will ensure we can continue this important work.

Life Science Cares 2022 Partner Reveal


NECAT’s 2021 Annual Report

We are pleased to share this report that demonstrates how NECAT has persevered through the pandemic, addressing the challenges we’ve faced in new and innovative ways. We appreciate all who have supported us along the way. 


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Three ways to have a special Thanksgiving

Dine out and let the professionals do the work.

Check out the Boston Globe’s list of Boston-area restaurants serving Thanksgiving.

The Guide to the Good Life also has some good suggestions.

If you are looking to be a little lavish, our very own partners at Encore Boston Harbor have some excellent options.

Have a dine out experience in the safety of your own home.

BostonChefs has a list of great take-out, to-go, and pick-up options for your Thanksgiving feast.

TimeOut Boston also has insider tips on the best restaurants offering take-home meals.

Or take’s advice: give your oven a break and order from one of these establishments!

Make your own feast.

There’s always a new dish to add to your Thanksgiving table or tradition to bring to the gathering.

For the best pies recipes, check out BostonChef’s list of 14 Must-Bake Holiday Pies.

ChowHound shares tips from culinary pros on how to pull off a smooth Thanksgiving at home.

For something tried and true, how about one of these recipes from the 17th century: eat like a pilgrim!

Or, from our friends at America’s Test Kitchen, here are some tips on making turkey and gravy for a crowd, and a fun interview with Jack Bishop about how his Thanksgiving is a 4-day celebration!

Consider some favorite recipes from the NECAT Team!

Culinary Instructor Jim Swasey recommends this Cranberry Ginger Relish. It’s tart and zingy to counter the richness of the heavy foods on your Thanksgiving plate.

Chef Tiara Andress teaches us that Devilled Eggs are a part of her Southern family’s Thanksgiving tradition.

Our Life Coach Brianna Hughes says Honey Cornbread Muffins made with Krusteaz mix is one of her favorite Thanksgiving eats. Her secret? Remove muffins a few minutes before they finish baking, add another dollop of butter on top and return to the oven for a few more minutes. Finish with a drizzle of honey.


On behalf of everyone in the NECAT family, we wish you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

NECAT Speaker Series features Chefs from Across the Sector


Elle Simone with Students

Elle Simone Scott, food stylist and TV personality with NECAT students.

“One of the important things we do at NECAT is expose our students to the huge variety of culinary jobs that are out there,” says Chef Instructor Tiara Andress. “Having our students hear the personal journeys of culinary professionals firsthand has a big impact.”

Over the past six months, as NECAT has cautiously lifted restrictions on allowing visitors into the building, we have grown our Guest Speaker Series. We’ve hosted chefs, restaurateurs, and food industry experts to speak with NECAT students and provide lived experience inspiration. 

“Our students are often unaware of what kinds of culinary jobs are available,” says Director of Career Services Vic Acosta. “They know they like to cook and they want to make a living from it. But, it’s exciting to show them that there are options out there that they never might have dreamed existed.”

Some of the talent we’ve recently welcomed to NECAT includes:

  • Anthony Caldwell of 50Kitchen in Dorchester
  • Rico DiFronzo, Executive Chef of Union Oyster House
  • Elle Simone Scott of America’s Test Kitchen
  • Christopher Walker Savenor’s Butcher Shop in Beacon Hill, who is featured in the video below, fabricating a 27 lb piece of beef in NECAT’s teaching auditorium. 




“I Care to Cook”

Monthly Recipe and Subscription Box Series


NECAT is excited to launch a Recipe Subscription Membership in partnership with some of the Boston-area’s most talented and exciting culinary professionals. Sign up to receive new recipes, special ingredients, video demonstrations and more!

With the “I Care to Cook” subscription, you’ll receive exclusive recipes, instructional videos, and behind-the-scenes content from participating chefs.

For $15/month, you’ll get at least one seasonally considered recipe to get your culinary creativity flowing. Each month also includes at least one instructional video from our featured chefs demonstrating how to prepare their recipes. The series includes chefs from Encore Boston Harbor (August); America’s Test Kitchen (September); and NECAT’s Instructional Kitchen (October).

When you subscribe for $50/month, you’ll also get one specially curated box delivered to your home each month with selected ingredients for recipes, recipe cards, and fun swag!

Sign up anytime! Although the deadline to receive the August box is August 1st. All proceeds go to helping fund NECAT’s free job training and the aspirations of adults looking to enter the culinary field.


20th Scoops & Hoops

NECAT’s very own case worker Anthony “Big Time” Seymour coordinated a special community event in Mattapan on Saturday. His organization, Youth in Crisis – a long-standing NECAT partner – held its 20th Scoops and Hoops event at Ryan Park.

Attended by Governor Charlie Baker, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, Suffolk County DA Rachel Rollins, among many other community leaders. “Scoops & Hoops” has become a beloved community tradition. This year, 15 basketball teams from the DCR Summer Nights Program competed in a day-long tournament, there were activities for kids, and live entertainment from the amazing James Brown Impersonator, Tony Wilson with his full band.

Several NECAT students worked the grill, providing burgers, snacks and refreshments to hundreds of attendees.


Check out coverage of the event on WCVB TV here.

Meet the NEW NECAT Team Members

We welcome four new talented individuals to the NECAT staff!

From left to right:

Chris Faison, Chef Instructor of NECAT’s Re-Entry program. Chris is a New Jersey native who graduated from Johnson & Wales University and currently resides in Dorchester. 

James Swasey, Chef Instructor/Catering Manager. Jim has extensive experience as a culinary arts instructor at both high school and professional culinary school levels, as well as experience as a Sous Chef and Pastry Cook. He also supervised buffet and banquet production for a 700-member private club.

Tiara Andress, Chef Instructor. Tiara relocated from South Carolina to Boston. She is experienced as a Chef de Partie, instructor and academic program director for a technical college.

Brianna Hughes, Life Coach/SEL Facilitator. Bri was a Re-entry Services specialist at a state prison, a family services residential counselor, and is experienced in individual and group counseling.

Bittersweet: we said goodbye to three popular NECAT team members this Spring: Chef Instructors Bob Krajewski and Paige Bloskey; and Life Coach/Case Manager Deryck Reid. All have accepted exciting new job opportunities, and though we’re sad they’ve moved on, we’re very happy that all are moving forward in their careers.  

Raising the Bar

NECAT Launches New Re-Entry Program


This new program will directly support individuals like C., above, who enrolled at NECAT just four months after being released from a 20-year sentence.

With our partners at Suffolk County House of Correction, NECAT is launching a training program specifically designed for adults re-entering the community from incarceration. Formerly incarcerated: two words that define and limit employment opportunities for anyone who has been part of the criminal justice system in Massachusetts. Finding a job after prison can range from difficult to impossible. A desire to work is not enough, as time-served translates into low-pay, low skilled or no opportunities. NECAT’s program will level the playing field for individuals re-entering the community and the workforce – our goal is to teach an employable trade, provide wrap-around support services, and link individuals to good-paying jobs – closing the discriminatory employment gap for formerly incarcerated people.

This program will be operated in partnership with Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department Reintegration staff, local employers and Boston-based organizations that specialize in re-entry services to address the stigma of incarceration and the resulting high unemployment and recidivism rates that currently exist. Together, we will work to change the trajectory of those who have been incarcerated at Suffolk County House of Correction and Nashua Street to positively affect their wage-earning potential and financial security; their families and the economic and social impacts on our community. The program is designed to be flexible — conducted behind the walls, online and at NECAT — to best meet the needs of the adults who need the structure, training and encouragement to help them take the next step in rebuilding their lives.  A tested model will help us all better define what it takes to more broadly move the needle on eliminating this historical inequality in the labor force. 

The program is made possible thanks to funding from Commonwealth Corporation.



NECAT Awarded $300,000 Cummings Grant

NECAT is one of 140 local nonprofits to receive grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each through Cummings Foundation’s $25 Million Grant Program. The organization was chosen from a total of 590 applicants during a competitive review process. It will receive $300,000 over ten years.

“After emerging from the challenges and strain of the previous fourteen months, receiving this Cummings Foundation grant just solidifies the elation and optimism of the current moment,” says NECAT Executive Director Joey Cuzzi. “Although NECAT has been providing in-person learning throughout most of the pandemic, the re-opening of the state is allowing us to truly return to a sense of normal. We’re increasing our student enrollment capacity, bringing back guest chefs, hosting career fairs and volunteering in the community,” said Cuzzi. “There’s an abundance of excellent culinary employment opportunities for our graduates right now with the food services industry rebounding quickly.  As we look to a bright future, it’s the most exciting time for us to receive the multi-year support from the Cummings Foundation.”

For the immediate future, this Cummings Foundation grant will support NECAT in helping its students and the communities it serves recover from the devastation caused by the pandemic. “We are certain that NECAT will play a significant role in this effort, helping some of those most in need get back on their feet both emotionally and economically through our occupational training,” says Cuzzi. Over the long-term, the grant will enable NECAT to expand its post-program support to graduates through extended case management and career services assistance. 

The Cummings $25 Million Grant Program supports Massachusetts nonprofits that are based in and primarily serve Middlesex, Essex, and Suffolk counties.

Through this place-based initiative, Cummings Foundation aims to give back in the area where it owns commercial buildings, all of which are managed, at no cost to the Foundation, by its affiliate, Cummings Properties. This Woburn-based commercial real estate firm leases and manages 10 million square feet of debt-free space, the majority of which exclusively benefits the Foundation.