WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — For 13 weeks, Shonte Watts, and his fellow students in the Providence Culinary Training Program, are learning the basics of how to work in a professional kitchen.

What You Need To Know

  • The Providence Culinary Training Program runs through Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina

  • The program takes 13 weeks, and there are multiple offerings through the year

  • The director of culinary training says it caters to a variety of students

  • Some need experience to get into a kitchen; others are chronically unemployed and need another chance

Watts grew up learning how to cook from his grandmother, but he didn’t have the necessary knowledge, like cook temperatures and dicing techniques, to get a culinary job.

He didn’t expect to end up in the program's kitchen. He says after he lost his job, he was struggling and his SNAP benefits case worker told him to apply.

“My personality to them expressed that I was a people-person, and I enjoy being around people, and I had put myself in a desolate place, staying in the house and not dealing with a lot of people,” Watts said.

He got in and received a scholarship from Goodwill for the program. Now, he says they're like a family, working and learning together.

Daryl Pobanz, the director of culinary training, said The Providence Culinary Training Program offers a unique opportunity to people in the area. They have students who need the “workable skills” to get into a kitchen and others who are chronically unemployed due to factors like homelessness or incarceration, and need a way to jump start a career.

After a year of uncertainty, the timing for the program is lining up well with restaurants reopening.

“They’re starting to see an influx in business, but the staffing, it’s just not coming in at the same rate,” Pobanz said. “So for our students, I’m really hopeful right now to put them in jobs because everybody’s looking for qualified kitchen help.”

The program is an alternative to others throughout the community, like community college, which for many isn’t an option. 

“We try to condense it down into a shorter period of time. Still get that quality education, with just a lot less financial investment and time investment to get on the ground, get your career started in the culinary world,” Pobanz said.

More information about the program can be found here.