By Shawn Chitnis

DENVER (CBS4) – Graduates in the Emily Griffith Technical College Culinary Quick Start program say they’re excited to enter the restaurant industry even in the middle of the pandemic. The free three-week course focuses on the skills in demand now and that will likely be just as necessary when businesses face fewer restrictions.

“It’s very personal but fast paced and it gave me something to do and now after three weeks I’m looking for another job in a totally different area of the culinary industry so it’s been awesome,” said Emily Hindman, a recent graduate of Culinary Quick Start. “I had always wanted or dreamed to go to culinary school at some point in my life but wasn’t necessarily sure if it fit into my timeline, I felt a little bit late and like it would be super expensive to do that at this point.”

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(credit: Emily Hindman)

Hindman worked as a server and a bartender but got laid off from both jobs during the pandemic. She has almost five years of experience working in restaurants around Denver but always wanted to get into the kitchen. Even with a degree in psychology, she felt this program was the path to her future.

“Just because the physical restaurant industry seems like it’s imploding, it’s not really, people are still needing food and still needing places to go,” she told CBS4 on a video conference call. “The food industry is just adapting, may that be ghost kitchens, or delivery, or finding a place to cook somewhere else, like a hospital café.”

She took virtual classes at night for free. The cost of this program is covered for students from multiple state funding resources. The remote format of the class made it impossible to avoid the current status of the industry. But Hindman and other students were still able to get into a physical kitchen outside the Emily Griffith Campus on several occasions for hands-on experience.

(credit: CBS)

Instructors limited those lessons to two students in-person due to COVID-19 concerns. The discussions in class not only covered the type of food preparation most needed in kitchens at the moment, but also the additional emphasis on sanitization.

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“Food will always be there and for someone like me to cook and wanted to learn, I wasn’t necessarily turned off by the fact by going back to cooking,” she said. “Now would be a good time to learn another skill that had something to do with the restaurant industry that I could put into use.”

(credit: CBS)

Beyond the technical skills and education, she says in three weeks she increased her network in a way she could not have from working on one side of the business for years.

Hindman is looking for openings and says the program’s job fair is a helpful resource to start the search. Classes continue online in February and the school hopes to offer some in-person.

The next session of Culinary Quick Start classes begins on Feb. 8 and interested students can still sign up online.

“I feel, strangely and I don’t believe ignorantly, hopeful,” she said. “There will always be a need for people to prepare the food.”

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Shawn Chitnis