SBS Launches First Course NYC Initiative To Train New Yorkers For Culinary Careers

NYC Department of Small Business Services (SBS) Commissioner Gregg Bishop launched First Course NYC today.

First Course NYC is a culinary apprenticeship to train New Yorkers and connect them to quality entry-level line cook jobs in leading New York City restaurants. With over 24,000 restaurants across the City, SBS is meeting the growing demand for qualified kitchen employees and increasing access for New Yorkers to start their careers in the culinary arts.

“New York City’s restaurant industry is vital to the local economy,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “Empowering residents with the skills needed to succeed in the ever-evolving food landscape gives them the opportunity for growth and prosperity in the future.”

The 14-week program provides culinary knowledge, technical skills, on-the-job training and valuable industry exposure. The initial eight weeks of classroom kitchen training, delivered with the participation of esteemed Chef David Waltuck, will teach participants the fundamental skills required to be an entry-level professional line cook. This training component will be delivered at the Food Arts Center, a state-of-the-art kitchen training facility in midtown Manhattan.

The remaining six weeks of the program will offer participants on-the-job training in respected NYC restaurant kitchens. Participants will be paid a weekly stipend of $125/week during the initial 8 week training and will then be hired as an apprentice by a restaurant partner, at $16/hour, for the 6 weeks of on-the-job training. It is intended that qualified apprentices who successfully complete their training will continue with their employer as full time entry-level line cooks.

Participants in the program will be supported by a human resources team designed to strengthen their onboarding, training and engagement experiences. A train-the-trainer workshop will be provided to restaurant partners to ensure best practices, cultivate high-potential talent and improve retention rates.

Upper Manhattan Workforce1 Career Center: 215 W 125th St, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10027

  • Monday, September 30: 9 – 10:30 a.m. ET
  • Monday, September 30: 3 – 4 p.m. ET
  • Monday, October 7: 9 – 10:30 a.m. ET
  • Monday, October 7: 3 – 4:30 p.m. ET
  • Monday, October 21: 9 – 10:30 a.m. ET
  • Monday, October 21: 3 – 4:30 p.m. ET

Attendance at a program information session in mandatory prior to submitting an application. Session time and locations are as follows:

Brooklyn Workforce1 Career Center: 9 Bond St, 5th Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201
Tuesday, October 1: 10 – 11:30 a.m. ET
Friday, October 4: 1 – 2:30 p.m. ET
Tuesday, October 8: 3 – 4:30 p.m. ET
Friday, October 11: 10 – 11:30 a.m. ET
Tuesday, October 15: 9 – 10:30 a.m. ET
Friday, October 18: 1 – 2:30 p.m. ET

“Restaurants are one of the few businesses that can’t be outsourced,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “In creating these culinary apprenticeships, SBS is creating a career path with a future for young New Yorkers. I urge everyone in Upper Manhattan to learn more at these information sessions starting next week.”

“I emigrated to New York City because it’s the greatest food city on earth, but today it’s in danger of losing that title,” said Amanda Cohen, Chef/Owner of Dirt Candy. “I’m incredibly passionate about the First Course NYC apprenticeship program because, for the first time, the city itself is addressing the food industry’s labor shortage. New York has given me everything and now it’s stepping up to help save the industry I love. I’m excited to have a chance to give something back, help fire up these apprentices with a passion for food and to teach them why the NYC food industry matters. Because it does.”

“While there is a huge need for trained cooks in New York, most culinary programs are financially out of reach for many qualified and motivated candidates,” said Chef David Waltuck. “I am very pleased to be a part of the First Course NYC program, sponsored by SBS. I look forward to the opportunity to share my knowledge and experience and to help start these students on their culinary careers.”

“We at Aurify Brands are very impressed with what the City’s First Course NYC program will do in hand-picking, training and connecting apprentices with our kitchen for on-the-job training to create the qualified line cooks we need,” said Alex Caiola, Director of Talent Acquisition for Aurify Brands. “We’re very excited to pilot the First Course program and hope this brings us many years of partnership to come.”

“Every restaurant is hungry for trained, skilled and dedicated staff to help build and professionalize the industry,” said Katherine Miller, Vice President of Impact at the James Beard Foundation. “It’s vital for the success of New York’s restaurant community and is a powerful model for other cities to look at and hopefully follow. We are very enthusiastic about the format and goals of the First Course NYC culinary training program.”

“Jean-Georges is excited to partner with First Course NYC to provide apprenticeship opportunities to New Yorkers that are passionate about the culinary field,” said Nicole Geigel, Corporate Human Resource Manager for Jean-Georges Management. “Fostering a positive hospitality industry in our city (and beyond) is one of our primary goals as a leading restaurant group!”

“Everyone is looking for the golden goose. The one who gets it, the one who shows up, the one that knows 80% of what you want them to,” said Anthony Rudolf, Partner at Co.Create NYC and Co-Founder of The Welcome Conference. “The problem is that geese aren’t born golden, they’re built. If you’re looking to find a way to solve the labor problem, First Course NYC is a giant leap in the right direction and you should take action and support. If you’re looking for the quick cure or the golden goose, try Craigslist. There’s a one-in-a-million chance you’ll find them there.”

“If we want a robust restaurant culture-we’ll have to take some stewardship over the conditions that will sustain them. It’s a line of work one can be very proud of and fulfilled by, in my opinion,” said Gabrielle Hamilton, Chef/Owner/Author, Prune Restaurant. I’m 30 years into my kitchen career and have taken everything there is to take out of this energetic and vital city and this industry; I feel both ethically obliged and glad of heart to return the favor in a meaningful way. With First Course NYC, I welcome the opportunity to apply myself to at least one small aspect of future cooks: to prepare well-rounded citizens of the professional kitchen, in hopes that they will go out into the world and keep the tradition of this respectable work alive and well.

For more information or to sign up for an information session, visit nyc.gov/firstcourse or dial 311 and ask for “First Course NYC.”

SBS helps unlock economic potential and create economic security for all New Yorkers by connecting New Yorkers to good jobs, creating stronger businesses, and building vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs. For more information on all SBS services, go to nyc.gov/sbs, call 311, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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