Eleven inmates graduated from the first Culinary Arts Management program at Folsom Women’s Facility.
Vincent Moralez, supervisor of the program, and Jason Doolittle, adjunct professor and executive chef, started the program in 2017 and taught their students everything from serving to cooking, as well as restaurant management, reported The Folsom Telegraph.
“It feels amazing and gratifying to finish the program because it makes me feel like I can accomplish anything,” said Cherish Velez, class participant.
“According to a RAND analysis, every $1 invested in such [inmate] education generates at least $4 in economic return,” reports Fast Company.
The women are taught by instructors from Cosumnes River College. They learn cooking, using the kitchen equipment correctly and basic management principles. The women will receive a culinary college certificate and college credit from this 10-month program.
Velez, who has always liked cooking, said it is now her passion. When she paroles, she hopes to travel to France, Italy and Spain to expand her culinary skills and experience as a chef, reported the Telegraph.
“It’s a really awesome program,” said Mireya Flores, another class participant. “I’m also really looking forward to continuing my education because there is so much to learn in cooking.”
“The state typically spends $71,000 a year to house an inmate. It costs about $5,000 total to help put one [incarcerated] student through community college”, reports Fast Company.
Flores said her favorite thing about the culinary program was working with others. She enjoyed cooking Mexican dishes and, with her certification, plans to open a taco truck.
Speaking of the cooking demonstrations the students have to perform, Doolittle said, “They were all so excited when they were able to pull off the recipes by themselves. I remember when I was a young chef and how I felt, so it’s exciting to see.”
With these skills of basic cooking technique, teamwork, and proper sanitation the women will be prepared to find work and benefit the community when they parole.
The program doesn’t teach everything, Doolittle said. He hopes the women keep on learning and trying to better themselves after they are released.