“Everyone has to eat. Even if they aren’t interest in a culinary career, this is where they learn to feed themselves.”
With those words, Gloria D. Hafer, Culinary Arts Instructor for the After School Matters program in Chicago, lays down the law.
The program started in 1991, with many of the students from homes with income at poverty level or below. In 2004, Hafer was approached by After School Matters and asked if she would consider being an instructor for them. “The students in my program are inner city kids who don’t have money, but want to be culinarians,” she says. “These are kids who grow up going through metal detectors just to go to school.” She pauses, and then, with a grin adds, “And then we hand them knives.”
Her past co-worker and consultant, Vicky Solczak, laughs along, adding, “If we had told you 15 years ago what you were getting into, you would never have done it!”
Neither of them, though, seems to have any regrets, particularly when they look at the success of their students. They point to them with pride, naming off restaurants where former students are now working. Two of their former students are now working as a pastry chef and a line chef for Rick Bayless, owner of several restaurants in Chicago, cookbook author, and a Food Network celebrity chef. Another is studying at Johnson & Wales, another has graduated from Dartmouth.
And, now, the current crop of students are working toward a dual purpose, that of raising scholarship funds with the opportunity for one or more of them to be the recipients.
The after school class, along with a number of adult volunteers, are putting together one of the exhibits to be on display at the For the Love of Chocolate event, a fundraiser sponsored by The French Pastry School in Chicago.
“Through what The French Pastry School does, all walks of life can come together,” says Hafer. “Nobody cares about anything but their chocolate!”
Hafer’s students can apply for the scholarship funds raised through the event. But she believes they are already winning through their participation in the gala, and through what they are learning by putting the project together. The students took on a big one—they are responsible for putting a silhouette of the city of Chicago on a three-dimensional replica of the Cloud Gate sculpture which stands in Chicago’s Millenium Park. For more about that project, and the sponsorship by the Jelly Belly Candy Company, check out our related article, “Partnership For the Love of Chocolate Foundation.”
“This is one of the biggest pieces at the show, says Jacquy Pfeiffer, Founder and Dean of Student Affairs at The French Pastry School. This year’s event also features 35 chefs, models dressed in chocolate fashion, and more than 60 different stations serving either savory or sweet samples, plus lots of entertainment.
Students are working on the project during their daily after school hours as well as on Saturdays and Sundays in order to get it done.
You can watch our video of “the bean” in the making, by clicking on “Students Recreate Chicago’s ‘Bean’ With Jelly Belly Beans.” Chocolate Dipped ones, that is!
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