Spicing Up the Future: Chef Tawana and TeenWorks Offer Culinary Bootcamp

Ten-hut! Get down and give me twenty, soldiers! Not twenty push-ups! Twenty sliced ​​onions! Now thirty!

Chef Tawana M. Gulley partnered with TeenWorks to provide 36 high school students with hands-on learning through their Culinary Arts Bootcamp. Held four days a week at 16 Tech’s AMP, the bootcamp offered students six weeks of training from June 5 to July 12.

The partnership between Gulley and TeenWorks began last year with the first culinary bootcamp. Hosting 36 students this year, the bootcamp’s mission is to empower young students with hard work and an entrepreneurial mindset.

Bootcamp students taste the lemonade they made. (Photo/Tawana M. Gulley)

“Our goal is not only to help them figure out what they want to do in terms of career and/or education, but we also want to create a community for students,” said Dieria Moore, director of summer programs at TeenWorks. “For the majority of our students, this is their first job, which is really cool because it’s a structured way to introduce them to the world of work.”

Gulley is the founder and executive chef of Healthy Soul, a restaurant in AMP that specializes in organic and pesticide-free foods. The menu is a mix of African and Asian influences and features grilled meats and hibachi-style bowls.

Dedicated to bringing healthy living to her community, Gulley created the culinary bootcamp with the help of TeenWorks.

“I just used my passion for food,” Gulley said. “I figured if I could give them anything, it would be that, because I love it so much. I kind of took them under my wing.”

This partnership enabled the creation of the bootcamp, but there was still a need for space. That’s where 16 Tech and its suppliers stepped in.

“The first year, I think they were a little skeptical, but I knew what it was going to be,” Gulley said. “I knew it was going to be something much bigger. So, they gave me the opportunity, and we just took it.”

a variety of salads and bowls on display
Examples of dishes prepared by Culinary Arts Bootcamp students. (Photo/Tawana M. Gulley)

This year’s bootcamp was a huge success, according to Moore and Gulley, who believe the camp does more than just spark an entrepreneurial spirit.

“I think it was a lot of fun, and the students ate really well while they were there,” Moore said. “They also got some customer service experience, built their social skills, learned about food sustainability in the community, and entrepreneurship.”

Some students are recruited by Moore, who visits local high schools and talks with guidance counselors to select students they think could benefit from the program. Others are chosen directly by Gulley. Regardless of how they got there, all students work together at the boot camp. Over the course of the program, they cover topics such as basic cooking skills, financial literacy, food scarcity, customer service, food origins and food handling.

“The program is basically about covering basic culinary skills like knife skills, recipe reading, customer service and food handling,” Gulley said. “Then we have a target speaker for each class or step.”

The target speaker is a professional who comes to talk to students about the topics of the program. Entrepreneurs talked about business, professional photographers talked about food photography, chefs came to talk about the food industry and bankers talked about financial education.

“The kids get a well-rounded experience, but the end goal is to inspire them to be entrepreneurs,” Gulley said. “That’s our real goal.”

The program is free. Students who participate also receive lunch and are paid between $8 and $10/hour depending on their seniority at camp. TeenWorks implements transportation and bonus incentives to encourage everyone to participate in its barrier-breaking initiatives.

“We host them at local high schools and centers around the city, based on the demographics of our program,” Moore said. “We give them uniforms. We also give them lunch every day for the duration of the program, which is another hurdle, and then they get paid.”

Students who participate in the program often return and become supervisors and leaders within the group, building on the entrepreneurial foundation the camp seeks to establish. The goals for the future of Culinary Arts Bootcamp are bright. Both Moore and Gulley want to bring the camp to the community year-round and expand the program so more students can participate. While the camp hopes to expand its reach and establish its own space, Gulley and Moore are excited to be a part of the community and make a difference in the lives of the students they work with.

“I’m very excited that we were able to welcome such a wonderful mix of kids and that we’re able to integrate the 16 Tech space at the same time,” Gulley said. “I want to make sure we recognize the small village that allows kids to come into the space and give them hands-on experience.”

‘Everyone teaches someone else’: Healthy Soul chef partners with Teen Works – Indianapolis Recorder

To order food from Healthy Soul, visit healthysoulindy.com; to help fund next year’s camp, visit Healthy Soul’s Instagram (@healthy_soul_indy); and to learn more about TeenWorks and its mission to inspire youth, visit teenworks.org.

Contact editor Hanna Rauworth at 317-762-7854 or follow her on Instagram at @hanna.rauworth.

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