By Rachel Menitoff

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — A brand new culinary training program called Groundwork Kitchen is celebrating its first cohort of graduates as they work towards finding jobs in the food and hospitality industry.

“I hope to one day become a professional chef and this is the beginning,” graduate Patricia Paul said.

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Groundwork Kitchen is based in Baltimore’s Pigtown and gives students the opportunity to gain hands-on work experience and earn credits toward a career in the foodservice industry.

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“When I plate a dish, I know exactly what I’m doing, there’s no guesswork. It took the guesswork out of everything,” Paul said.

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Groundwork Kitchen operates as a full-scale restaurant with a catering service. It offers free culinary and customer service training to those interested in a hospitality career.

“We actually have a full-time employment coordinator who’s going to be working with all of them to help place them in jobs,” Ellen Levy, Program Director of Groundwork Kitchen said. “Then we provide support and coaching for at least 6 months after they start working as they transition into their new careers.”

Some Groundwork Kitchen students decided to start new careers after COVID, following their passion for food. Others were more experienced and may have dabbled in the food business as a hobby.

All are now ready to take their skills into the workforce.

“I have a passion for cooking,” graduate Marie Skeen said. “I like watching people eat the food that I make. It brings me joy.”

Skeen hopes to take what she’s learned from the program and open her own restaurant or food truck.

“I reached goals taking the tests and the quizzes and passing them and looking forward to moving forward to a greater, brighter future,” Skeen said.