Elly – Cohort 34

Getting a job during a pandemic isn’t easy, particularly in food services. But, when Elly first approached NECAT in November 2019 she had no idea of what was ahead. At that time, she was running a casual catering business out of her Roxbury home, making food for family and friends’ parties and special occasions. But, she knew that proper training was a necessity – she needed to know if the food she was making was safe, what the best way to do meat cuts were, and how to manage things like recipe conversion. So, when a guest at one of the parties she catered told her about NECAT, she knew that it was going to be a part of her future.

Elly started her NECAT training in January 2020. Her cohort was just weeks from graduation when NECAT had to close its doors in mid-March.  But, a committed Elly kept up with NECAT’s virtual classes and was able to graduate on July 10, as part of the first group of students to return to in-person training at NECAT after reopening.

Elly at NECAT on the day she graduated.

“My experience at NECAT was so positive. My peers and I formed a little ‘NECAT family’ – we had study groups and looked out for each other. And the chefs were always so supportive – making time after class to explain something more if you needed it.” Elly was on her way to forging her future as a chef.

But, a pandemic can throw off the best-laid plans. Elly applied to several kitchen jobs in March, about a month before she was due to complete NECAT. She was excited to start with one of Boston’s top catering companies, yet only had the chance to work two shifts before the pandemic shut down their operations.

She persevered throughout the spring and summer, pursuing any opportunity she came across. “I applied to every culinary job I could find on Indeed,” she says. “I was so set to work in the kitchen of a great Boston restaurant, like somewhere in the South End.” But unfortunately, those restaurants didn’t call back. “Right now, so many restaurants have had to lay people off, and if they do hire anyone, it’s someone who is the best of the best, with a ton of experience. I’m just not there yet.”

Finally, one restaurant did call her back – a local Chipotle wanted her for the role of kitchen manager. “It’s not my ultimate dream, but right now I’m learning a lot about prep and inventory and that’s really important.” And she hasn’t slowed down there – she’s soon starting as a Line Cook at the Cheesecake Factory. “This is my time to build my experience. I’m working through this pandemic and I’m going to be ready for what I want to do next when the time comes.”

We know that with her NECAT training and her determined energy, Elly’s time will come soon enough.