PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- As the saying goes, give a man a fish and he eats for a week. Teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime. That's the concept behind the Philabundance Community Kitchen or PCK.
For their mid-term exams, students in the program faced a black box, Chopped-style challenge.
"Give them three secret ingredients and two hours to complete two dishes," explained Chief Instructor Brian Ricci.
"What's this here?," he asked the students, as he reviewed the final dishes.
"It was very stressful," says PCK student Michaela Hill, who prepared a grilled lamb with mashed potatoes and orange and fennel chutney for the challenge.
"But after some of the judges comments," she said, "I feel better about myself and I know that I'm supposed to be here."
The program runs 16 weeks and in that time, students learn everything they need to know to succeed in a professional kitchen and to succeed in life.
"I'm finding out more about myself and what it was I was doing wrong in my life," said PCK student Shantae Moore.
"I'm looking for drive. I'm looking for someone who wants to change their life," said Jason Starling, the manager of student recruitment and a life skills coach at PCK. "We preach change."
The new kitchen officially opened in September, a huge state-of-the-art facility ready to train students for careers in an industry that's been devastated by COVID-19.
"What's the plan with this?," Chef Ricci asked a student as he eyed the ingredients.
The ability to adapt to life's challenges, he said, is part of the curriculum, "People are always going to need to eat. How they get their food currently is changing."
"You've got to be ready for what's coming," warned Samir Hernandez, the program's assistant chef instructor. "If you're not ready, then you know, you kind of get lost in the sauce."
Hernandez is Exhibit A for that advice. He is a PCK alum who was working at a restaurant pre-pandemic.
"I lost my job as soon as it hit," he said.
Hernandez was then hired by Philabundance to be the assistant chef instructor in the PCK Kitchen.
"Recovery and perseverance," Hernandez said, "That's life. like you're gonna get knocked down multiple times a day. You've got to be able to get back up and keep pushing."
With the increased need for food during the pandemic, the students became part of the solution, ramping up production of meals for the hungry.
"At some point, we were making over 4500 meals a week," Ricci said.
People in need helping people in need, as they work towards a more promising future.
"Maybe one day I can go into business for myself," Moore said. "This is just the beginning for me."
Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK) | Website
2224 N 10th St, Philadelphia, Pa. 19133
The next PCK training session starts January 11th. To apply, contact recruitment manager, Jay Starling:
Jay Starling@philabundance.org | 215-770-8467
Initial interviews are by zoom due to the pandemic