DENVER (CBS4)– There is a new program in Denver designed to teach people who are experiencing homelessness how to cook. It includes workforce training and help finding a job. For graduates, it can be a recipe for a better life.

(credit: CBS)

Valerie, who asked to not use her last name, chops like a champion. She’s been sharpening her skills and learning all about food preparation since August 2020.

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“Use my brain power,” she said.

For Valerie, a divorced mother in her 50s, it is a slice of self-confidence as she pulls herself out of a downward spiral that left her homeless.

“At that time, COVID was coming around, economic problems and things like that,” she explained.

All the student chefs are homeless. They are recruited from the Comitis Crisis Center in Aurora.

(credit: CBS)

The 6-month program is offered by the nonprofit Housed, Working and Healthy in tandem with Emily Griffith Technical College.

Students first learn the culinary fundamentals and safe food handling. Chef Suz Long, executive chef and head instructor, is teaching a stretched-out version of Emily Griffith’s 3-week Culinary Quick Start curriculum. Then, it becomes an onsite apprenticeship.

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“Where they produce food for real life customers,” said Suz.

Valerie calls Suz patient and passionate.

“Not love, she has a passion for what she does and it shows,” said Valerie.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for people to get their foot in the door and start doing something again,” said Suz.

The program includes help landing a job and then 6 additional months of housing at Comitis to save money.

The motto is “training, leads to apprenticeship, leads to employment.” It’s not just about cooking, this program has all the ingredients for a promising future.

(credit: CBS)

Anyone who is interested can sign up for the 3-week Culinary Quick Start program at Emily Griffith Technical College. It is free for all students and each 3-week class ends with a hiring fair. Those interested can learn more and sign up here: https://www.emilygriffith.edu/programs/culinary-quick-start/

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The students at the Housed, Working and Healthy program make food that can be ordered for pick up and treats that can be shipped: https://housedworkingandhealthy.org/main/