Minority Youth Develop Culinary Skills Through Sodexo Program
August 06, 2009
Collaboration with NAACP ACT-SO and Hyatt Creates Contest to Find the Best and Brightest of this Generation’s Cooking Stars
GAITHERSBURG, Md., August 6, 2009 — As a growing 12-year-old, Victor Angeles already was developing a passion for cooking and enthusiastically helped his mother prepare breakfasts that included boiled eggs and plantains and other dishes from his native Dominican Republic.
Angeles, now 19, has merged his interest in cooking with his Dominican influences to beat the competition at a cooking contest in New York City created in part by Sodexo, a comprehensive service solutions company with a core business of integrated food and facilities management. Angeles, who had to drop out of high school but is now studying for his GED, began his culinary training in the South Bronx Job Crops just three months ago. He won the Sodexo-sponsored competition with his poached-egg roasted tomato and chicken-mushroom sauté. His prizes: an official chef jacket, professional knife set, and the mentorship of Chef Dennis Williams, a former leader of the French Culinary Institute, who now teaches at the South Bronx Job Corps.
“Winning this competition has really made me think about my future in culinary in a whole different way,” said Angeles. “I now have the confidence I need to go out and make my mark in the kitchen. I used to think I could do this--now I KNOW it!”
Sodexo Corporate Chef Sterling Smith, also an enthusiastic mentor, helped coordinate the cooking competition. He agrees that the program is a good example of how Sodexo is fulfilling its commitment to developing people as the leaders of tomorrow.
“We want to develop confidence and skills and encourage young men and women on a culinary career track,” said Smith. “The competitors have spectacular skills and working with mentor chefs allows each of them to define their talents.”
The cooking competition was held the second day of the National ACT-SO Competition in New York City.
ACT-SO (Academic, Cultural, Technological Scientific Olympics) was developed to bolster and nurture youth achievement within the African American community. Students participate in more than 200 cities across the nation receiving months of coaching leading up to competitions in areas ranging from dance, music, and art to biology and computer science. Sodexo and Hyatt Hotels have been stalwart ACT-SO sponsors and put a huge effort into teaming up for this event.
“Sodexo and Hyatt share the NAACP’s passion for providing opportunities to people of diverse backgrounds,” said ACT-SO National Executive Director Anana Kambon. “The success of the competition underscores the value of additional culinary opportunities. ACT-SO is excited about the strong potential for future collaboration in the culinary arena.”
This first competition featured five culinary students chosen by the non-profit, BCA (Black Culinarian Alliance), which provides educational opportunities for people of color in culinary/hospitality fields. BCA President and Event Moderator, Chef Alex Askew, gave each contestant 15 minutes to develop a menu using ingredients from a community storeroom. Then, with the help of mentor chefs, the burners were fired up and cooking creativity kicked in. Each participant walked away with cooking tools, gift cards, and the joy of taking their talent to new levels.
“This project is extremely significant for Sodexo and the community,” said Sodexo Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Dr. Rohini Anand. “What is amazing is the ripple effect that events like this will have on the community by giving hope to the student competitors and their families.”
Sodexo, Inc. (www.sodexoUSA.com) is a leading integrated facilities management services company in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, with $7.7 billion (USD) in annual revenue and 120,000 employees. Sodexo serves more than ten million customers daily in corporations, health care, long term care and retirement centers, schools, college campuses, government, and remote sites. Sodexo, Inc., headquartered in Gaithersburg, Md., is a member of Sodexo Group, and funds all administrative costs for the Sodexo Foundation (www.SodexoFoundation.org), an independent charitable organization that, since its founding in 1999, has made more than $11 million in grants to fight hunger in America. Visit the corporate blog at www.sodexoUSA.com/blog.