The sounds and smells of a busy kitchen have once again returned to NECAT after nearly four-months of virtual programming. Both staff and students are grateful to be back together, doing what we love most – teaching and cooking.
Part of NECAT’s new normal is adjusting to the many changes in place. PPE, plexiglass shields, workspace dividers, social distancing, changing pods, storage lockers and floor markers are now what’s visible when you walk into our beautiful center. While we feared this new distance would feel strange in an environment known for its sense of togetherness, we appreciate that these tools and precautions have allowed us to reopen. The energy of those in the building still comes through – even with masks on.
“Returning to NECAT has helped restore the sense of community we’ve all been missing for the past several months,” says NECAT Culinary Instructor, Chef Paige.
In the face of historically high unemployment rates, and as the first culinary training program to resume in-person programming in Boston, we are working to accommodate an increased demand for our training. We are enrolling smaller classes to allow for social distancing, and have shortened our program length to 10 weeks, helping students graduate and start work faster. Slightly longer days and a higher staff to student ratio has made the program more individualized and intensive. These changes will allow us to safely train and graduate more students than last year. We remain committed to helping those disproportionately impacted by the current economic crisis get back on their feet.
Nearly a month into reopening, we will soon graduate our second small group of students who were enrolled when we had to close in March. If fact, we anticipate graduating most of our previously enrolled individuals. This is a true testament to our program team who, remotely, worked so hard to help students remain engaged and supported through this challenging time.
Danyelle, is one of these students. She not only kept up with her virtual culinary training for four months, but also managed her son’s online schooling, secured a culinary job that she loves, and has grown her own plant-based catering business. “Culinary is a new start for me. It’s really important that I finish and get that validation,” she says.
We believe that NECAT can play an important role in the local economic recovery effort — we’re the nexus between food service businesses and the workers, and we can help restaurants significantly reduce one major cost of reopening: the sourcing of qualified workers.
It is exciting to see our students back in action – slicing and dicing, sautéing and simmering, braising and roasting their way to achieving their culinary certificates and launching their culinary careers. We cannot wait to welcome our first new class on August 12.