VoCul

Culinary instruction for a meaningful career.

At The Good Acre, we take a holistic approach to solving critical gaps in our regional food system. When we first started selling local produce to area K-12 schools, we realized that logistics were only part of the problem.

To build successful and sustainable farm to school programs, we need to address a key barrier schools face in implementing scratch cooking in their kitchens— a shortage of skilled labor. Our VoCul program is inspired by our farm to school culinary training in that it trains aspiring culinary professionals in seasonality and sustainability, as well as offers students a solid foundation in cooking good food from scratch.

School Chef

Program Goals

Chef
Encourage more people to pursue careers in culinary arts
food tray
Increase the number of healthy food options available in food service operations across the Twin Cities
produce basket
Enable foodservice operations to source more food that is local and in season

How does the program work?

Participants go through 10-weeks of a combination of hands-on and online training, followed by an internship at a partnering professional kitchen. Participants:

  • Receive a weekly stipend to offset living expenses
  • Participate in a combination of hands-on and online training, approximately 28 hours per week
  • Fulfill a 4-week internship commitment with one of our partner kitchens
  • Receive support in obtaining a culinary service job at the end of the program

Catch up on the latest VoCul news on our blog!

VoCul Open House!

Thursday, June 23rd,  5:00 – 6:30 pm

Click the link below to RSVP for our free virtual open house.

For Participants

Applications to participate in VoCul are now closed. Please click the button below to fill out our interest form and we will notify you when applications are live for our next cohort. 

For Partners

If you are a K-12 school interested in hiring skilled culinary workers or a community organization representing clients in need of employment, apply to be a partner.

Missed our virtual open house?

We’ve got you covered! Watch the recording for a great overview of the VoCul program. Applications for our next VoCul cohort are now closed, but fill out our interest form if you’d like to apply in the future!

Vocational Training F.A.Q.

What is VoCul?

VoCul, our Vocational Culinary Training program, aims to increase the amount of healthy, locally-sourced, scratch-cooked meals in various foodservice operations by training individuals seeking culinary careers. This 14-week vocational training program supports the workforce, entrepreneurial and institutional foodservice operations, and our regional farm economy.

Under the guidance of Chef Lachelle Cunningham, Jamal Hashi, and Jenny Breen, trainees learn about food safety (ServSafe certification included), nutrition, seasonality, large-batch scratch cooking, how to use industrial equipment, and more. The first ten weeks of the program consist of in-person lectures and labs in a commercial kitchen in St. Paul. An optional four-week internship follows at one of our partnering kitchens. 

Who is involved in VoCul?

VoCul is a pilot program of The Good Acre, in partnership with Casa de Esperanza. If you are affiliated with a community organization interested in being a VoCul program partner in the future, please APPLY HERE.

During the internship phase of this pilot program, participants are invited to intern with our partners who currently include: Hopkins Area Schools, Great River School, Chowgirls Catering, and Eat for Equity. APPLY HERE to be a host site for interns in the future.

When does this training take place?

Applications for Cohort 4 are now closed and we will begin training in August of 2022. Please fill out our interest form to be notified when applications for the next cohort are open.

Time Commitment: 28 hours per week for all 10 weeks of the program, internship is optional.

  • 10-week Training Phase includes in-person lectures and cooking labs, and flexible remote work tasks.
  • 4-week optional Internship Phase includes 112 hours of on-the-job training in a partnering kitchen
  • Graduation – Takes place during the final week of the internship
Where does VoCul take place?

For the well-being and accommodation of all program faculty and participants, the VoCul program has been designed to be flexible to different schedules and personal circumstances. Training is delivered in a combination of formats:

  • Weekly in-person lectures.
  • Weekly in-person cooking labs (two full days) in a local commercial kitchen on Mondays and Wednesdays from 7:30a – 3p.
  • Web-based components can be completed remotely with a high-speed internet connection through the online class portal. 
  • Internships take place at various kitchen locations in the Twin Cities metro area. Each intern completes their optional internship for up to 112 hours at one site.
Will I be paid to participate?

Yes!

Participants are paid a weekly stipend of $420 per week with good attendance.

All kitchen equipment and recipe ingredients needed for in-person labs are provided by The Good Acre. This includes knives, smallwares, and larger equipment and appliances. TGA also provides textbooks for ServSafe certification, a chef’s coat for each graduate, and aprons to use while in the kitchen.

VoCul has extra transportation and/or child care funds available for participants to attend online and in-person training sessions. These additional funds are available by request. Students should contact the instructor directly to learn more about the request and approval process.

What are the eligibility requirements?

Applicants must:

  • Be 18 years of age or older
  • Have valid identification, as required by the I-9 form
  • Have a high school diploma or equivalency

Note: while our intention is to remove as many barriers as possible to training and employment opportunities, it is possible that some results of background investigations could deem an applicant ineligible for employment in school kitchens.

Is job placement guaranteed after graduation?

No.

Participants will graduate with the skills necessary to start a culinary career. Our goal is to educate, empower, and equip participants with culinary and job readiness skills. We collaborate with our program partners to create pathways to employment when possible. However, job placement depends on employer needs at the time of graduation, and VoCul graduates must go through the employers application process. We will gladly provide a professional reference by request.

Meet Your Instructors

Lachelle Cunningham

CULINARY EDUCATION MANAGER

Lachelle is passionate about empowering people with the skills needed to create healthy and soulful food. She believes exposing kids to new foods is critical for helping them learn to make healthy choices that will last a lifetime.

Jamal Hashi

CULINARY INSTRUCTOR

Jamal is a Somali-American chef who has worked in the food service industry for 20 years. Having opened 13 restaurants during the course of his career, he now does food and social justice work, including arts and theater programming. He is passionate about food as a bridge to the community and cooks for our unhoused neighbors since the pandemic and uprising in Minneapolis.

Jenny Breen

CULINARY INSTRUCTOR

Chef Jenny has been a professional chef for over 25 years, owned a farm to table restaurant and catering company from 1993-2013, attained Master’s degrees in Education and in Public Health Nutrition, and has worked for the last 15 years at the intersection of cooking, health, sustainability, and justice. Jenny teaches at the U of M, and is an independent consultant working to integrate health and wellbeing, food systems and sustainability, and equity and justice in every food space. You can find out more about Jenny’s work and collaborations at her website transformingthetable.com

Program Partners

Casa de Esperanza logo
Chowgirls logo
hri-logo
Eat for Equity logo
Great River School logo
hopkins-logo

Accreditation

ACFEF logo

VoCul is made possible with funding from the Cargill Foundation. The program is ACFEF-accredited for delivering high standards in culinary arts education.

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