At Lazarus House Ministries in Lawrence, food represents opportunity.
With the help of local chefs, the nonprofit offers a 10-week Culinary Work Preparation class for low-income adults, many of whom are recent immigrants to the United States. The program combines culinary instruction with a focus on proper food safety techniques as well as English as a Second Language instruction. At the conclusion of the program, students are placed into local three-month food service internships—many of which result in full-time employment.
Executive chef Paul Dubuque of Samuel’s Restaurant at the Andover Inn recently visited the Culinary Work Preparation class for his second stint as a guest instructor. Dubuque taught the class how to make lobster mushroom crepes. Dubuque walked away from the class impressed with the students’ skill and work ethic.
“I really love the enthusiasm,” Dubuque says. “It’s hard to find people that are this passionate—even people in the industry. They really care about what they’re doing and moving forward.”
When he’s teaching, Dubuque places an emphasis on technique to ensure that students understand the entire cooking process.
“I try to bring the raw ingredient to the table and show them how to break it down, so you can see the beginning product and the end product; it’s pretty cool when you take a live lobster and break it down.”
For the students, this emphasis on technique is critical.
Among those in Dubuque’s class was Chantal Tshamala. The mother of five immigrated to Lawrence from the Democratic Republic of the Congo three years ago. She discovered the program by accident, after visiting Lazarus House Ministries on behalf of a friend. Tshamala began the program with some culinary knowledge, but believes that learning from experienced chefs, such as Dubuque, has taken her skills to a new level.
“It was amazing. The way he decorated the dish, it was beautiful,” Tshamala says. “Now I know many more things about how to handle the food and how to cook it. If I have the chance to improve my English, I can learn more.”
While Tshamala and the other students certainly benefit from the class—they will finish the program with 500 hours of real-world culinary experience—Dubuque walks away fulfilled as well. He plans to return again to teach another class in August.
“In our industry now, the talent and dedication are pretty tough to find. Working with these people is fantastic because they really just want the chance to learn something and they appreciate that they’re learning a trade,” Dubuque says. “I’ve been doing this for 25 years and I think the opportunity to work with these people brings the passion back to you. I think every chef should do something like this.” lazarushouse.org