Richmond culinary program aims to teach teens skills beyond the kitchen

More than culinary skills are being taught inside a kitchen at the Sarah Garland Jones Center.
Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 3:13 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - More than culinary skills are being taught inside a kitchen at the Sarah Garland Jones Center.

“These classes, they’re fun and very competitive to say the least,” Demone Hill, a program participant.

The 16-year-old is one of about a dozen taking part in a pilot program called “RVA C.O.O.K.S.” It’s an eight-week program meant to spark a culinary interest in this group of teens.

“Because I like cooking and it’s fun. Something to do, something to get out of the house,” said Hill.

Food Network celebrity chef Sammy Davis is teaming up with Richmond Police to kick off the new initiative. Chef Davis rose from a troubled household and now has Richmond connections.

“You could tell that at that age, at that risk, that they’re trying to figure it out, if there’s an option for change cause I don’t know if they know,” said Davis.

Richmond Police say the program is also meant to teach creativity, and principles that lead to success beyond the kitchen for Richmond’s at-risk youth. The group meets once a week with classroom time both inside and outside the kitchen.

“It’s a creative way to do that. It gives kids the ingredients they need to be successful in life and we talk about the dangers of gun violence, the problems with substance abuse,” said Capt. Daniel Minton, Richmond Police Department.

Future graduates will have access to job placement support and resources to enter the culinary field.

Bon Secours is providing the space. Registration is now open for fall 2022. Back in the kitchen, Hill says he will keep the apron, but also has bigger goals.

“I still want to be an athlete but this is still a fallback option,” said Hill.

Richmond Police say the organization hopes to expand the program, not only for teens but also for those coming out of prison.

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