NECAT’s Origins

New England Culinary Arts Training – NECAT – opened its doors to Greater Boston in September 2013. An ambitious vision developed by Founder and Chairman, Maarten Hemsley, NECAT represents a nonprofit collaboration between public and private partners.

Maarten was inspired after meeting Bill Strickland, an innovator and heralded leader in the development of practical job-themed education and training for adults and youth. Strickland was responsible for the highly successful programs of Manchester Bidwell Corporation (MBC), a nationally-renowned career and cultural training center founded in Pittsburgh in 1968. Building on MBC’s track record, influence and “corporate firepower,” NECAT joined with MBC’s replication subsidiary, the National Center for Arts & Technology, to develop a Boston affiliate based on the practices and strategies that had already been proven in Pittsburgh and across the U.S. and overseas.

Over the course of NECAT’s short history, the organization has established strong leadership and a successful culinary training program model. Executive Director Joey Cuzzi has been at the helm since January 2016. She came to NECAT after a lengthy career in Public and Community Relations and as the Executive Director of the East Boston YMCA. Under Joey’s leadership, NECAT has become a stable, forward-looking organization with strong partnerships with area employers, non-profit organizations, state and city governments, and funders.

In 2022, Joey hired Ayanna E. Hines as Deputy Director, serving as NECAT’s culinary expert and program director. Ayanna has a range of experience in the nonprofit sector, including athletics, affordable housing, education, youth development, religion, cultural economic/business development, and human services.

NECAT’s dedicated team works tirelessly to keep our program relevant to the changing needs of our participants and the industry. As the profile of our students shifted to an increasingly vulnerable population, we responded by adopting a trauma-informed care model for teaching and establishing case management for all students.

NECAT coordinates its Career Services Training with an Employer Advisory Council – a group that is committed to hiring and supporting NECAT graduates, paying competitive wages, and is interested in contributing to our program’s design and delivery. The Council’s indispensable input ensures that our students are trained and prepared with the skills most valued by top employers.