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.

 

Virtual Luncheon with State Street

It would have been an otherwise typical work-from-home Friday. But last week, 11 members of State Street’s Corporate Citizenship & Global Inclusion Team got together to cook and socialize over beef tenderloin and lobster tail – and a few other delicious accompaniments, like flourless chocolate cake. 

In lieu of regular in-person fundraising events, NECAT has been pleased to offer distinctive and fun virtual alternatives this past year. For this occasion, NECAT provided the State Street team with pre-packaged meal kits with measured ingredients, detailed instructions, and even a bottle of wine. Together, with NECAT’s Deputy Director and Executive Chef Martha Leahy, the group cooked alongside her instruction and learned some expert tips along the way, like what to do if you “break” your béarnaise sauce, or how to perfectly sear the finest cut of tenderloin. 

All proceeds from the event directly support NECAT’s employment training for adults in Boston, those who have either lost their jobs or have limited employment skills. NECAT has proudly continued to place our graduates into quality culinary jobs throughout the pandemic, at fantastic employers including Whole Foods, Haley House, Daryl’s Corner, Legal Sea Foods, Encore and more. 

 

Interested in hosting a Virtual Dinner Party?

For more information about NECAT’s virtual dining opportunities, contact Jessica Williamson at jwilliamson@ne-cat.org or (617) 442-3600 x 712.

Hope is Real

As we reflect on the past year, the eloquent words of inaugural poet Amanda Gorman are fitting:

That even as we grieved, we grew; That even as we hurt, we hoped; That even as we tired, we tried.

We survived a year full of challenges, heartaches and losses. NECAT was tested like never before, but staff and students never gave up. COVID proved that resilience is truly our common thread.

We exist thanks to the cooperation and generosity of individuals, corporate sponsors, program partners and advocates who helped make the impossible possible. Please watch the short video here on life at NECAT since last March. Since we can’t bring you to NECAT yet, we’re bringing NECAT to you!

 

Virtual Cooking Classes

Thinking of ways to beat those winter blues? While so much of our lives remains in hibernation, why not let NECAT help you connect through one of our virtual cooking classes?

All through the winter, NECAT is pleased to offer a virtually distinctive and fun dining alternative—one that combines eating, socializing, and skill-building without breaking any social distancing guidelines. And in the spirit of rallying behind those hardest hit by this health and economic crisis, your participation will support much needed employment training for adults in Boston, those who have either lost their jobs or have very limited employment skills.

 

 

How Does it Work?

Menu & Ingredients 

You select a recipe and wine pairing with the help of one of our talented chefs. Some of our menu options have included Ricotta Gnocchi, Shrimp & Pea Risotto, Pad Thai, and Spicy Seafood Pasta. We are happy to work with any dietary preferences. 

Invitation

You provide the contact names and email addresses of your guests and NECAT will send out the invitation, provide the shopping list and instructions, and the Zoom link to your participants. 

Lesson

Your team will be instructed by an experienced NECAT chef. The format is interactive and informal, as your participants cook along with our chef, ask questions and see their dinner come together.

Enjoy!

Once the dishes are prepared, the NECAT team will sign off and leave you to eat, drink and have fun together!

Sponsorship

All proceeds fund NECAT’s exceptional culinary training, career readiness and social-emotional support for adults who are overcoming significant personal challenges: substance abuse recovery, homelessness, incarceration, and chronic under-employment or unemployment due to lack of affordable training.

There is a minimum contribution of $1500 with a capacity for up to eight Zoom accounts per event. 

Next Steps

For more information or to schedule an event, contact Jessica Williamson at jwilliamson@ne-cat.org or (617) 442-3600 x 712.

Partner Spotlight: Dorchester Bay EDC’s Reentry Program

Linda Mello at Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation

Linda Mello

The Dorchester Bay Economic Development Corporation (DBEDC) Reentry Program began in 2008. Participants are connected to the program through pre-release centers including Brooke House, Suffolk County House of Correction, Hope House, and referrals from probation officers, judges, police officers, lawyers, and former program participants. They support about 75 new clients yearly with an average of 70% being accepted into GED programs or career training programs like NECAT.

As Linda Mello, DBEDC Reentry/Job Placement Consultant will tell you, returning from jail or prison is no smooth ride. While no longer behind bars, so many who are recently released face barriers that include homelessness, a lack of transportation, inadequate access to healthcare, and limited job opportunities. This is why, for the past seven years, Linda has referred participants to NECAT’s program. With its structured, full-time schedule, and equal emphasis placed on job readiness, skill development and emotional support, NECAT can be an ideal option for someone looking for stability and opportunities after incarceration.

We recently connected with Linda to see how DBEDC’s Reentry Program has been faring over the past year, and why she continues to refer program participants to NECAT. Her most recent referral graduated from NECAT in December and secured a full-time Prep Cook position with Whole Foods just this week!

 
  1. Tell us about your program. How are things different in the COVID age.

Each individual’s needs determine our approach and support through relationship building and job preparation. Constant contact with our outreach counselor helps to build trust and supports the success of each participant. Individual counseling fosters a sense of belonging, motivation, and an understanding that each participant can start a new life and look forward to a brighter future.

The Reentry team conducts an initial intake to determine the appropriate services to provide each participant. Career development is the program’s primary focus and highlights the importance of a career. Every participant is encouraged to enroll in a job training program, like NECAT’s, that meets their skillset and offers promising job opportunities in their fields of interest.

COVID-19 increased the demand for our reentry services and impacted how we connect with program participants. We reach out to new and current participants through phone calls and virtual meetings. The change was a challenge initially, but it became the best way to expand our program’s reach in the community.

 

  1. What inspires you most in working with your clients?

Our program participants’ successes deeply inspire us; each has shown that possibilities are endless if given a chance. Their successes spur us to double our outreach efforts and provide more training and employment opportunities, essential to returning citizens’ success.

 

  1. Why do you refer your clients to NECAT?

Our clients’ success rate at NECAT has been tremendous! Dorchester Bay Reentry Program participants referred to NECAT remain employed and continue to excel in their work in the food services industry.

A recent program participant praised the training he received at NECAT highly above other culinary programs he previously attended.

What we love most about NECAT is the staff’s dedication and compassion. The support for trainees continues after graduation with the offer of future opportunities. No one is left behind! Their love for cooking is as great as their love for the trainees.

Partner Spotlight: Department of Transitional Assistance

Tinika Dottin, Full Engagement Worker, Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA)

 

DTA assists and empowers low-income individuals and families to meet their basic needs, improve their quality of life, and achieve long term economic self-sufficiency. DTA services one out of eight people in Massachusetts including working families, children, elders and people with disabilities. The agency offers a comprehensive system of programs and support to individuals and families including food, nutritional and economic assistance, economic, and employment guidance.   

Tinika’s job as an Engagement Worker is to connect families to resources and build partnerships with employment, training and education programs.  

I believe that NECAT creates an amazing learning and professional atmosphere that allows students to dream big while being surrounded by positive peers and supportive staff, says Tinika. “Many of our DTA clients have been successful and secured employment because NECAT provided them with the best quality hands-on culinary education and job skills for a competitive workplace market. I am always inspired when I attend the NECAT graduations to see and hear the powerful success stories.”

Monica is one such success, an energetic and strong mother of six who worked closely with Tinika at DTA. Tinika’s team referred Monica to NECAT believing that she would excel in the program. Monica quickly proved her culinary skills and secured a job with great opportunities for growth before she graduated from NECAT last winter. Unfortunately, she was laid off during the pandemic and the closure of schools meant that she needed to be home to support her children and their remote learning.

Monica in NECATs kitchen.

But, as Tinika says, “I am inspired to see individuals and their families, like Monica’s, rise above barriers to reach their full potential and achieve their goals. ‘Keep Rising’ is my motto as it is inspired by Maya Angelou who eloquently taught us to keep rising above any challenge and circumstance.”

During the past several months, Monica has indeed continued to rise above challenges and circumstances to keep her family’s well-being intact. She has been able to relocate her family to a better living situation. She is seeking additional business and financial skills through NECAT’s network, while she formalizes a food service business that will allow her to work from home so she can support her children and earn a living.

We recognize that it takes resources and access to opportunity to “keep rising.” We are thankful for the ties we have with dedicated workers like Tinika who enable us to support our students, graduates, and our community – to rise above. 

Giving Tuesday Recipes

NECAT is proud to be part of a global day of giving by participating in #Giving Tuesday. We hope you will consider a donation to us today as we share a few holiday recipes from local chefs who are closely connected to NECAT.

In these anxious and uncertain times, we are so grateful that we’ve had the kitchen as our refuge. At NECAT we’ve kept our doors open to in-person training for most of the year, and we’ve relished the opportunity to keep cooking and preparing great cooks and food – a recipe for success that’s hard to beat.

This Giving Tuesday we give thanks to the extraordinary support and strength of the NECAT family. You have made it possible for us to keep cooking, training and providing the possibility of a hopeful future. You can read more about our year and make a contribution here.

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Chef Michael Lombardi’s Manicotti Crepes

“This probably doesn’t seem like a ‘holiday’ recipe for most, but my grandmother made manicotti every thanksgiving,” Michael Lombardi, the Chef/Owner of SRV in Boston’s South End tells us. “The pasta was a crepe style. We would sit down and eat it and then take a break before having turkey and all the fixings.” Chef Lombardi and his business partner, Kevin O’Donnell have been longtime supporters of NECAT. Their pasta-making demonstrations have been a highlight among our students for years and we are proud that NECAT graduates have gone on to work in the SRV kitchen. Chef Lombardi is a current member of NECAT’s Employer Advisory Committee.

For the crepes:

2 cups AP flour
2 cups water
6 eggs
1 tsp baking powder

Whisk eggs together and then add the rest of the ingredients to make a batter. Add enough batter to a 6 inch non stick pan to make a thin layer. Cool until it sets and then flip it out onto a paper towel.

Manicotti filing:

3 lbs ricotta
4 eggs
1 cup chopped parsley
3/4 cup grated Parmesan, 1/4 cup reserved

Mix all the ingredients together except the reserved 1/4 cup of Parmesan. Put 2 tbsp in the center of the crepes and roll them into logs. Place them in a baking pan next to each other. Cover the crepes with tomato sauce, sprinkle them with the remaining 1/4 cup parmesan and bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

Basic tomato sauce:

2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 cloves of garlic crushed
2 qts crushed tomato
5 large basil leaves

In a sauce pan heat the olive oil and add the crushed garlic cloves. Do not get any color. Season the garlic with the salt. When the garlic has softened up and become aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato in. Bring it to a simmer and Cook for 5-10 minutes on a low simmer. The goal is to cook off some of acidity of the tomato without reducing it down too much. Turn off the heat and add in the basil. Let it steep for 5 minutes and then remove the basil and if you can, the large pieces of garlic. Adjust salt level as needed.

 

Monique Clark’s Savory Cornbread

“Cooking is my therapy, it’s my happy place,” says Monique Clark, a graduate of NECAT’s 27th cohort. Monique’s first job after graduating was baking at Encore Boston Harbor, a fast-paced and exciting job where she learned a lot. Now, during the pandemic, she’s had a chance to grow her catering business The Makings of Mo. “It makes me overjoyed to see people eating and melting over my food. This is an easy, comfort side dish that can be easily made with or without meat. It makes any holiday dinner come together with so much flavor!”

Instructions
  • Cook your favorite cornbread. Let it cool. Crumble finely with hands and set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan, sautéed mirepoix (small/med dice).
  • Add 2.5 cup vegetable stock.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of ground sage, salt and pepper to taste and a dash of celery salt (optional).
  • Let boil for 10mins on medium heat.
  • Pour over crumbled cornbread.
  • Mix until fully incorporated.
  • Bake at 350° for 20mins covered.
  • Uncover and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until no longer wet.

This recipe also works with Jimmy Dean Sage sausage. Cook sausage fully and add to cornbread crumbles before pouring wet mixture.

Chef Bob’s Cranberry Sauce

 

“Love it or hate it, cranberry sauce is the focus of many a heated holiday debate. In my youth, we used the canned variety. And if I’m being honest, it’s still on my table today. I know, I know… it’s partly nostalgia, but I do enjoy it very much. I also enjoy making my own,” says NECAT’s Culinary Instructor Chef Bob Krajewski. “There is no subtlety to these garnet berries. When cooking cranberries, we need to use both bold flavors and a bit of sugar to tame their aggressive tang. Here, I use a good deal of aromatic spices, orange in two ways, vanilla bean, and sugar.”

Ingredients:

2 ea oranges
2 lb fresh cranberries (frozen is fine too)
3 ea cinnamon sticks (3″ each)
4 ea star anise
1/2 tsp whole cloves
1 vanilla bean (split length wise)
1 cup sugar

Method:

1. Zest oranges and reserve.
2. Split oranges and juice, reserve fresh juice
3. Tie spices in cheese cloth (a sachet)
4. In a wide shallow saucepan add cranberries, spice sachet, and vanilla, sugar and 2 c water and all fresh orange juice.
5. Bring pan to a simmer and slowly cook, stirring regularly, until a hearty sauce is achieved, and the cranberries have broken down. About 1 hour
6. Taste the sauce. Depending on the acid level of the fresh berries you may need to add a touch more sugar.
7. Before removing from the heat add the orange zest and mix in.
8. Allow the sauce to cool with spice sachet overnight
9. Serve the following day

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To learn more about the work that NECAT has been engaged in this past year and how your gift will make a difference, click here.