A new partnership between RiseBoro Community Partnership and Hot Bread Kitchen brought the popular free culinary training class to RiseBoro’s Diana H. Jones Innovative Senior Center (Diana Jones Center) in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
Launched in founder Jessamyn Walden Rodriguez’s Brooklyn apartment in 2008, Hot Bread Kitchen provides free culinary and professional skills training and small business support to immigrant women and women of color in New York City. Now based in Chelsea Market, they’ve incubated more than 250 small businesses and have helped more than 300 women launch culinary careers, thanks in part to Hot Bread Kitchen’s network of employers who regularly hire graduates for entry-level positions like prep cook, baker, and pastry assistant.
In partnering with RiseBoro, Hot Bread Kitchen extended its presence into Bushwick, making it easier for women in our communities to gain the skills and network they need to realize their culinary dreams.
The partnership began with one five-week course held in the kitchen of the Diana Jones Center and led by culinary veteran Chef Loren Feldman. Students met daily to practice knife skills, basic culinary and baking techniques, food safety, and prepare for the NYC Food Protection Exam—a valuable credential as they launch their culinary careers.
“This was an amazing opportunity,” said student Amy Gavilanes. Amy grew up in a foodie family and had been looking for a way to break into the culinary industry when she spotted a flyer advertising Hot Bread Kitchen’s Bushwick-based course and decided to apply.
“My father and grandfather were really passionate about cooking for our family,” Amy said. “They loved the feeling of feeding everyone and making them happy, and that gave me the drive to pursue this.”
She loved learning how new recipes and styles of cooking and pushing past her comfort zone, even when it meant learning how to weather mistakes.
“That’s part of the process—staying focused and not losing sight of why you started and why you need to continue,” she said. “It can be challenging because you have to pick yourself back up and keep going.”
Like Amy, Cynthia Woods also learned about the Hot Bread Kitchen course from a flyer. Cynthia was interning as a cook’s assistant at Housing Works when she saw the flyer on a bulletin board at work. She was drawn to the opportunity to build on her existing skills and earn the valuable Food Protection Certificate that would give her an advantage on the job market.
Cynthia grew up cooking southern food with her family, including her grandmother, who used to cook for unhoused people out of the kitchen of the parsonage at their family church. Her years of kitchen experience made it more challenging to swap the habits of a home cook for that of a professional.
“I had to learn how to be flexible and open my mind to doing some things differently,” she said. “I learned knife skills, different ways of cutting, different types of vinaigrettes, and now I’m curious to learn more because in order to be great, you have to be good.”
She hopes to work in many different types of restaurants so that she can build her skillset before opening her own southern-style food truck.