A local church is building life skills, and preparing people who may not have had a chance for a career in the food service industry.
The Glade Church has developed CHEFS, or Creating Help through Employment in Food Services, as a part of their Life Build Ministry. It is a 16-week program that uses the Culinary Institute of America’s teaching materials to prepare people for a career in food services. The whole program is free to the student, and several from the first two classes have already got employment.
Gayle Safeeullah got laid off from her previous job in May of last year, and saw an ad for the program on Craigslist in June.
“I have been into cooking for a long time,” said Safeeullah. “But those programs are really expensive. I didn’t have $17,000 to do that.”
Safeeullah went through the program which combines a classroom component, many, many hours in the kitchen, and also a life skills portion. In addition to the chef training portion of the program, CHEFS teaches their applicants how to do things like write a resume and how to do well on an interview. It worked for Safeeullah, who got a job at the Black Pearl in Black Jack Cove in Old Hickory, and has already been promoted to kitchen manager.
The Glade Church’s Minister of Engagement and Hospitality Chris Cox, who spent many years a successful caterer in Nashville, thinks the program is important for several reasons.
“This is God’s gift,” said Cox.
He said in addition to the necessary skills for employment in the food industry, it gives people a positive experience in church, something he said The Glade Church tries to do. He said that church has a reputation of being judgmental, and that is not what this is about.
“You’re welcome here, we have an open arms approach,” said Cox.
The classes have also brought about a boom in The Glade Church’s Wednesday night dinners. What used to be attended by around 50 people, is now seeing around 300-350 people show up every Wednesday. People are getting restaurant quality food for $6 a person, and no more than $25 for an entire family. Cox said they are able to do this because regular restaurants usually charge three times what the actual food is worth to help cover things like paying the staff, bills for the restaurant, etc. So you can get what is essentially a $15 meal and up at a restaurant for just $6. The church handles the cost for just the food. Cox said that anyone is welcome, you don’t have to be a member of the church, or even stay for the service.
“Some people go on to service at their own church, and that is perfectly fine,” said Cox.
Cox said it has been a good way to bring the community together as well, even if they don’t go to the church.
They have also cooked for 20-30 shut ins in the surrounding area. They also cooked for the teachers on Teacher Appreciation Day at Gladeville Elementary, and many of those teachers started showing up for the Wednesday night dinners after seeing the quality of food they were getting.
The CHEFS program is about to go through its third cycle. After Cox placed the ad on Craigslist, he got over 100 applicants, 60 of which came in for interviews. Eleven went through the first cycle, and four graduated. Cox and Shawn Farrow, who volunteer teaches the program, said that many people realize that a food service career is not for them.
“Cooking for 300 people is a whole different ball game,” said Farrow.
In the future, the CHEFS program will continue to expand. Cox said that he hopes that they can cook for more people in the community, and maybe set up days to go to certain businesses or groups. He would also like to get a senior nutrition program going as a part of that so the students could learn to cook a proper meal for seniors who are on a certain diet.
If you are interested in being a part of the CHEFS program, or want to help out in anyway, contact Cox at