Two well-known local chefs will serve as chef instructor and administrator for a new Gorge-wide 12-week culinary training program, the Fresh Start Culinary Arts Program announced this week.
Chef Matt Patterson and Chef Rainbow Trosper will join the new program on Feb. 16. Patterson, currently the chef and kitchen manager at Rack & Cloth in Mosier, will be the program’s Chef Instructor. Trosper, currently handling catering and deli prep and desserts at Boda’s Kitchen, will be the program administrator.
The appointments follow over a year of planning for the program, which hopes to welcome its first class in April. A steering committee involving a broad cross-section of people from local food, non-profit and faith communities has completed a business and marketing plan, secured several grants, and filed for non-profit status. Kathy Watson (my wife), former chef at Nora’s Table Restaurant, is chairing the group.
The effort was germinated in the mind of the Rev. Vicky Stifter, of the Riverside Community Church. The church will host the program, operating out of a commercial kitchen recently remodeled in large part with the financial assistance of the late Scott Johnson and his wife, Elaine.
The program goal is to provide a short and intensive training program that will prepare un- and under-employed Gorge youth and adults with skills to take entry-level cooking positions in commercial kitchens throughout the Columbia Gorge.
Stifter was inspired by a similar mission at a program called FareStart in Seattle.
Fresh Start is currently recruiting students for its first 12-week program, slated to begin in April. Most students will qualify for free tuition, but the program will also accept a limited number of paying students. The 12-week curriculum was developed by the successful L.A. Kitchens program in Los Angeles.
Fresh Start is also seeking catering and other food service contracts, to give students real-world experience and help support the program. The non-denominational program will have access to the Pioneer Room and sanctuary of Riverside Church for on-site events.
For information regarding student enrollment or catering, contact Kathy Watson at 541-386-8870 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition to providing training, the program is also designed to meet a serious deficit in skilled restaurant talent in the mid-Columbia region. Combined numbers from state economists on both sides of the river show that the Gorge has more than 200 restaurants, with average monthly employment among that group in excess 2,000 (numbers fluctuate, depending on season).
Hood River County alone had more than 85 such establishments in 2014, according to figures provided by regional economist Dallas Fridley.
Interviews by program organizers with four local chefs confirmed suspicions about the challenges they face in finding talent.
Local “help wanted” listings consistently feature an abundance of requests for applicants with kitchen skills.
It’s actually a national problem. People who enter the profession and grow their skills can advance to managerial positions and take their careers anywhere in the world.
This story in the NY Times shows that even people who might expect to hire the cream of the crop are struggling to define “cream” and find the “crop.”
Patterson graduated from Oregon Culinary Institute in Portland in 2008, completing the 40-week program and earning ServSafe certification. Prior to Rack & Cloth, he was the morning sous chef at Nora’s Table, managing the restaurant’s breakfast program. He also held positions as lead cook at the award-winning Bayhouse Restaurant in Lincoln City, Oregon, Kitchen Manager of the Delicate Palate Bistro in Pacific City, and evening lead cook at the Larkspur Cafe in Sitka, Alaska. Patterson and his wife, Laura, live in Mosier.
Trosper is a 2001 graduate, with honors, from the Le Cordon Bleu/Western Culinary Institute in Portland. Prior to Boda’s Kitchen, she was a sous chef and pastry chef at Nora’s Table for six years. From 2004-2008, she was banquet sous chef and pastry chef at the Columbia Gorge Hotel. Trosper and her husband, Wes, and daughter, Anessa, live in White Salmon.
“Chefs Patterson and Trosper are accomplished, professional chefs with extremely good teaching and people management skills,” says Watson. “I am looking forward to building the Fresh Start program with them.”
Fresh Start intends to help successful students find internships and permanent job opportunities.