The St. Joseph Center in Venice offers a ten-week Culinary Training Program to teach students basic kitchen and work retention skills to enable them to obtain employment in the food service industry.

St. Joseph Center officials say the Culinary Training Program exemplifies the center’s “hope through empowerment” ethos by reaching out to individuals who want to work but who, because of limited skills or factors in their past, find it difficult to start productive careers.

With a 70 percent placement rate, the program is now being held out of the center’s new 1,500-square-foot kitchen, which is outfitted with professional equipment in Southbend rangetops, convection ovens and grills.

In addition, the program recently enhanced its offerings to graduates with a “Chef Success” program that allows new center partners to reward program graduates with the tools they need to succeed in the workforce.

One of the program’s new and more impactful partners is the American Institute of Food Managers, a Los Angeles County Health Department provider, which has committed to providing food handling training certifications twice per quarter for every program graduate, St. Joseph officials said. A food handler’s certificate is considered a valuable tool that makes applicants more marketable as they seek employment in the food service industry.

“The Health Department now requires that all food handlers, including servers, to have some form of food and alcohol safety training,” said Norman Van Gelder, president and chief executive officer of the Institute of Food Managers. “It is with great pleasure that we donate these services to the Culinary Training Program at St. Joseph Center, as my personal mission is to broaden overall awareness in food safety practices while serving a larger pur- pose in charitable giving.”

The institute is joined by corporations such as The Culinary Institute of America and Wiley Publishing, Skechers, Dickies, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Chicago Cutlery in equipping program graduates with the tools that they will need to succeed in the food service industries.

Culinary Training Program students are currently conducting their externships at various dining establishments and kitchens around the community, including Anisette, Annie’s Edibles, Kensington Caterers, St. John’s Health Center, New Directions, Inc., Dolce Forno, Giggles and Hugs and Dare You to Care Grill.

Graduates have been placed as employees in food service positions throughout the local area, including at the Sofitel Hotel, UCLA, St. John’s hospital and Bristol Farms, says a spokesman.

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