New program readies local residents for employment in Toronto’s culinary industry

CRC believes in providing critical resources, tools and space, and a non-judgmental approach, so that people living with poverty and its effects can build up their lives with dignity. Our founders spoke of it as “providing a hand up, not just a hand out.” While much of our work focuses on delivering critical immediate relief services – access to healthy food (65,000 community meals a year), housing supports (through our 40 Oaks Housing project and Housing Support services), and daily Drop-in programs – we are keenly aware that real and meaningful change requires serious investment in innovative, collaborative skill-building programming.


CRC Chef Norberto Caceres and caterToronto’s Vanessa Yu with Sustainable Food Sector participants

This is why we are so excited to be on the cusp of welcoming a brand-new cohort of trainees to our Culinary Skills Training Program, targeted to low-income individuals in the Downtown East who wish to build their skills to work professionally in Toronto’s flourishing food industries.

All free of charge, trainees are offered pre-employment classes in:

  • New culinary approaches in the sustainable food sector in partnership with Toronto Employment and Social Services, Dixon Hall and caterToronto. This program is open to individuals currently on social assistance through Ontario Works.
  • Business-skills like ESL, Kitchen Math (scaling up recipes for large meal service), invoicing, budgeting, time management and computer literacy.
  • Professional culinary training, focusing on topics like baking and breadmaking, food styling, knife skills, menu planning, cooking techniques and terminology, and kitchen culture.
  • Information about Ontario Labour laws, employee rights, and job searching.
  • Safe Food Handlers Certification training (a requirement for working in a professional kitchen). We’ve also adapted the training to be more accessible for local youth; for example, offering training over the course of two days and incorporating varied teaching styles such as hands-on activities in addition to traditional classroom teaching.


CRC began developing this curriculum in 2017, beginning with consulting members of the community for their valuable input around learning goals and researching best practices in culinary training in the community. Our team included CRC Catering and Taste of Regent Park Coordinator Cavell Hart, Chef Norberto Càceres, and Food Skills Coordinator Emma Palumbo. Each CRC staff member was involved in developing the curriculum, by writing weekly lesson plans in their area of expertise; for example, Chef Norberto developed the curriculum on training participants for Safe Food Handlers Certification. The staff also met with other agencies offering culinary skills training programs to inform the development of our own curriculum.

“It’s awesome to finally see these programs come to life after so much planning, dreaming, investment and the hard work of all the partners,” said Claire Barcik, CRC’s Executive Director.

Community Caterers serve up their delicious cuisine at Taste of Regent Park this summer.


This new suite of programs has come about through important partnerships with community groups such as Dixon Hall, Yonge Street Mission and caterToronto as well as pilot funding from Toronto Employment and Social Services (Sustainable Food Sector Training). Several CRC donors have also contributed to the development of this program, including the Kelly Willis and Robert Green Foundation, the Murray R. O’Neil Charitable Foundation and Timothy Eaton United Church. The John and Pat McCutcheon Charitable Foundation generously contributes to CRC to help us purchase local produce that supports our community meal service and Food Skills programs.

Our goal is that upon completion of this program, graduates will be able to pursue entry level jobs in a professional kitchen, further their catering business or work as vendors in the food service sector.

As said by Program Coordinator Cavell Hart, “Our trainees – newcomers, members of our community – these people know how to cook, and cook well. They just need the fundamental skills that can level the playing field for them in the food service industry.”