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A 3-week intensive job-training program for professional kitchens that trains, finds jobs for, and supports under-employed people.
A 3-week intensive job-training program for professional kitchens that trains, finds jobs for, and supports under-employed people.
A 3-week intensive job-training program for professional kitchens that trains, finds jobs for, and supports under-employed people.
407 backers pledged $56,500 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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First Course: Training for Professional Kitchen Jobs

$56,500

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FoodWorks Madison was started by Jonny Hunter of Underground Food Collective, Matt Feifarek of Slow Food Madison, and Chandra Miller Fienen of Starting Block Madison. We started FoodWorks to serve our community through the connective power of food. What are we working on and how did we get here, and most importantly, why do we need you? Well...

Madison, Wisconsin is consistently voted one of the best cities to live in America, featuring good quality of life, good schools, and low unemployment among other factors. 

However, it also has persistently high unemployment in communities of color. This contributes to a startling gap in social equity between different segments of Madison's citizenry; while some enjoy our famously high quality of life, others find Madison to be an extremely difficult place to thrive.

Meanwhile, powered by deep roots in the farm-to-table movement, Madison area food-based businesses are doing very well. They are winning national awards, expanding, refining, and opening new ventures. But these same businesses are experiencing a long-standing shortage of qualified cooks and prep-cooks. 

Our first project aims to connect these dots to address both problems.

One Solution: Job Training

We’re currently piloting First Course, a three-week job-training program for professional kitchens, designed to provide students with the basic kitchen skills they need to get good jobs in food service. Upon graduation, we'll provide all students a $1000 bonus to incentivize completion and help offset their opportunity cost. Finally, we are committed to placing all graduates in good jobs that set them up to pursue their goals, with ongoing mentorship to support their job retention and long-term success.

A Cook's Curriculum 

First Course’s innovative curriculum has been developed in partnership with award-winning regional chefs & kitchen managers, community partners, Slow Food Madison, and an expert from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education. We'll be open-sourcing this curriculum, making it available for other communities to use it, fork it, translate it, and otherwise tailor it to local needs.

We are currently testing this curriculum—and our model—with four students. The city of Madison has provided partial funding for this test and the reporting that will follow.

What's IN the curriculum? It provides essential skills to help people get professional cooking jobs. Our goal is to build a strong foundation so graduates can pursue careers in the kitchen, or work toward launching their own businesses, but at the very least, skip the dishwasher station:

  • Knife skills instruction and practice (slice, dice, julienne, chiffonade...)
  • Basic cooking (sauté, roast, blanch, braise, fry, grill, as well as making stock, seasoning, tasting...)
  • Job skills (interviewing, asking good questions, identifying mentors...)
  • Tool and equipment use
  • Intro to ingredients
  • Kitchen vocabulary
  • Food safety (holding temperature, danger zone, contaminants...)
  • Mentoring and networking with industry professionals

We host lots of visitors from the industry: cooks, chefs, restaurateurs, managers, entrepreneurs, teachers. They share the stories of their enterprises, backgrounds, and hiring practices. We have a field trip day, where students visit food businesses, from food carts to university residence kitchens. Students get to ask questions, seek advice, and make connections. We prepare and eat lunch together every day so that students have more time to talk about the industry, their job goals and challenges.

Future Plans

Our immediate goal is to finish our pilot, place all students in jobs, and report our results to the City of Madison. Also, we need to raise funds to finish paying for the test!

Once we've reported on our pilot program, we would like to refine the curriculum and beta test it, before scaling up First Course to ten sessions per year. That would mean training, supporting and finding jobs for up to 200 graduates a year.

Sounds good, but don't live in Madison? Here's why you should still support us:

Our fervent and explicit goal is to make it so that others can take the core of what we've done, replicate it, modify it, and make it work for their own communities; that's the open-source part of the proposition. We think it's one of the most important things. If we just make a nice little program with a great teacher that's in Madison but relies on magic sauce or expertise that nobody else can do, we haven't moved the needle very much. See our FAQ for a little more, or send us a message! And notice the reward level that gives you early access to our open-source curriculum.

How Will We Use Your Funds?

So far, FoodWorks has been volunteer-powered. We've received generously donated help from community groups such as the UW Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic. But some stuff does cost actual money! The city's grant allowed us to rent a professional kitchen, hire a teacher, and buy some supplies, but it's not enough to do it all.

Your support will help us meet many of our goals, including:

  • A graduation bonus for each student
  • Full open-sourcing of our curriculum (not just a document dump, but a true github/gitbooks-style sharing that is well indexed, annotated, and stuffed with videos and supplemental materials)
  • Seed funding for FoodWorks's next chapter

Risks and challenges

We know that there are lots of underemployed people. We know that businesses are desperate for workers. We know that businesses and potential employees need help to connect.

We also know what we don't know. We don't know best how to reach the communities that we aim to serve. We don't know the optimal blend of kitchen skills and job-readiness skills that will help people find and stay in jobs that meet their needs.

Fortunately, Madison has several excellent community service organizations that do a great job of connecting real people to programs and services like ours, and they have helped us find our first group of students. We hope this will be the start of a long cooperative relationship.

We know how to teach food-service skills; we have a qualified teacher, an industrial kitchen to use, and a partial budget to execute the test. We have many potatoes, carrots and onions to chop, and a chef's knife, paring knife, and board scraper for each student. We're already cooking!

We're borrowing from entrepreneur-speak, thinking of this pilot as our "MVP" test: our minimum viable product. We want to test our model and our methods, and refine them to meet the needs of our students and their eventual employers.

We could be wrong with our model: we could teach the wrong skills, or in the wrong way. We could under-prepare our graduates for the job-readiness skills that help to get and retain work. Our graduates may find that the pay rate for entry level kitchen jobs are often not enough to meet their needs. Our course could be too difficult or too easy.

So far, though, it's been great. Our first four students are engaged and excited, and we're sure they'll complete the course. They all seem very engaged and interested in cooking, and we believe that they'll go on to be exemplary and happy employees.

Without your help, we'll have a hard time delivering on our goals. We'll still share our curriculum, but it'll be rough and minimal. We'll have to scramble for other sources for the graduation bonuses, and we'll start the next phase of our work underfunded and in a state of scarcity.

Fundamentally, we are already cooking: First Course is live right now. In that sense, we are a success already. Our failure would be in not being able to support the students as much as we hoped, and in not being able to share our work as widely and completely as we had hoped.

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  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $10 or more About $10

    Prep Cook

    Your food system skills are looking good! We’ll send you updates on FoodWorks and First Course going forward.

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    Snacks

    We will send you a special salami made by our friends at Underground Meats just for this Kickstarter (black garlic and mushroom) or a package of the way too addictive Collective Goods Cheddar Crackers (made with Wisconsin cheese).

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    Pledge $50 or more About $50

    Activist

    As a supporter of local, just food systems, we’ll send you updates on our progress through our newsletter, you’ll be listed as a supporter on our website, AND you'll get early access to our curriculum BEFORE we fully open source it.

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    Pledge $85 or more About $85

    Saucier

    You're a master of sauces! We’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND we'll send you a gift tube (preserves, salami, cheese, chocolate) stuffed with goodies from Underground Food Collective as a thank you.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Pastry Chef

    You make this project sweet! We’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND a cookie box as a thank you for your support.

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    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    Homebrew class for 2

    You and a friend can learn how to brew your own beer from our friends and backers at Working Draft Beer Company and The Wine and Hop Shop. You'll learn every step of the process & learn a ton more about beer. (classes held in Madison)

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    Pledge $150 or more About $150

    Exclusive Orchard walk for 2

    Join the growers at our favorite orchard, Door Creek for a guided gorgeous (and delicious) walk through the 88 varieties of heirloom apples, grapes, sheep, and much more. The orchard DOES do you-pick, but this is a rare chance to spend time walking on the beautiful land and learning with the orchardists themselves.

    http://www.doorcreekorchard.com/

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Garde Manger

    We couldn’t do this without you! We’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND you’ll have the opportunity for a webcam cooking lesson with a professional chef.

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    Pledge $200 or more About $200

    Cheese Monger

    We’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND a cheese board hand-made by our founders from reclaimed hardwood.

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    Pledge $500 or more About $500

    Sous Chef

    A truly dedicated member of our food community, We’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND we'll throw a bagel pop up at your house! (Near Madison, WI only, please)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Chef de Cuisine

    Your support will help us reach our most ambitious goals. In return, we’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND we'll throw you a class for six on cocktails & mixology. (Class held in Madison, WI)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    PRIVATE Home-brew class for up to 8

    You and 5 friends can learn how to brew your own beer in a private session 'crafted' just for you, from our friends and backers at Working Draft Beer Company and The Wine and Hop Shop.

    You'll learn every step of the process & learn a ton more about beer. (classes held in Madison)

    ALSO, they'll bottle the batch from your class and deliver it to you.

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Wine class/tasting @ Square Wine Co

    A private wine class/tasting for up to 10 with Andrea Hillsey, proprietor of Square Wine Company at her shop in downtown Madison, customized to your wine interest, and curated and taught by Andrea herself. (date can be flexible)

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    Pledge $1,000 or more About $1,000

    Cicerone

    You and friends (up to 10 total) get a guided tour and beer tasting at the new Working Draft Beer Company (opens this winter).

    Get to sample some great beer while learning more about how its made!

    This is not just a cursory show-n-tell tour, this is for the beer nerds, you'll go deep! (If you know what cicerone means, this is for you!)

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    Pledge $1,200 or more About $1,200

    Exclusive Private Orchard Evening

    You and 5 of your friends will meet the growers at our favorite orchard, Door Creek for a private walk through the 88 varieties of heirloom apples, grapes, sheep, and much more.

    In *addition*, the founders of FoodWorks will cook an open-fire al-fresco meal celebration for you and your guests, on the family's private farm.

    This reward is a private event, just for you, to be held at the magic late-afternoon into evening hour, when the creek valley is at its most gorgeous.

    Act quickly, there is ONLY ONE of these.

    http://www.doorcreekorchard.com/

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    Pledge $1,200 or more About $1,200

    In-home wine class/tasting for 10

    A private wine class/tasting for up to 10 IN YOUR HOME with Andrea Hillsey, proprietor of Square Wine Company, customized to your wine interest, and curated and taught by Andrea herself (with help from FoodWorks founders). (date can be flexible)

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    Restaurateur

    As a vital supporter of this project, we’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND we'll teach a cocktails & mixology class in your home. (Near Madison, WI only please)

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    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    Private Tasting Dinner at Liliana's

    Chef Dave Heide of Liliana's contacted FoodWorks with an extraordinary offer: He has donated a 5 course tasting menu exclusively customized for up to 8 guests at his restaurant, complete WITH a wine flight from Allstate.

    http://www.lilianasrestaurant.com/

    (to be held in Fitchburg, WI)

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    Pledge $2,000 or more About $2,000

    Brewmasters

    You and up to 3 friends collaborate with brewers at Working Draft Beer Co. to craft a unique, one-off beer that will be featured in the taproom!

    Be there when the recipe is formulated and the beer is brewed on the WDBC pilot system. Then come on back for VIP treatment during the beer's release party!

    BONUS: You even get to name the beer!
    (Brewery to open this winter -- on Madison Isthmus)

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    Pledge $2,500 or more About $2,500

    Executive Chef

    Your vision for stronger local food systems is integral to building a better future! To show our appreciation, we’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND we'll throw a food truck party for 50 at your house. (Near Madison, WI only please)

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    Reward no longer available 5 backers
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    Pledge $3,000 or more About $3,000

    Mogul

    You're the mastermind behind this whole thing, and you know it. We’ll send you updates, list you on our website, AND you'll be dining in exclusive style with a dinner for up to seven by award-winning FoodWorks chefs prepared in your home. (Near Madison, WI only please)

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Funding period

- (22 days)