Alta pilots restaurant skills training course

Ryan Lucas, owner of the Outback Steakhouse on Queen Street, demonstrates kitchen knife skills to his class of Alta students.

By SHERIDAN CYR

STAFF WRITER

High school students from Alta at the Pyne Center have been given the opportunity to explore a new concept and experience first-hand what a career in food service could be through a new partnership between Bread for Life, Alta, and the local Outback Steakhouse on Queen Street.

Twice each week, the BFL kitchen on Vermont Avenue transforms into an interactive classroom for five Alta students, led by Outback Steakhouse owner Ryan Lucas as the instructor. In a six-week session, those students will learn various culinary lessons.

“This is a great opportunity for the students to learn life skills, how to accurately price menu items, how to make inventory orders, and how to manage portion control,” said Alta principal Jess Levin. “They may find a new interest in a culinary career through this course.”

At the end of the six week course, students will receive a food safety certificate, which will help set them apart from the competition if they choose to pursue a job in a restaurant.

“This is really exciting. We hope to help these kids who are interested in a career in food service to be ultimately employable,” said BFL administrative director Missy Cipriano. “We hope they’ll learn more skills, boost their self-esteem and make new goals for themselves.”

The program was made possible with the help of financial support from the Southington Education Foundation, Youth Services, and Outback Steakhouse. Lucas purchased and gifted each student with BFL aprons, chef coats, a thermometer and cutting gloves.

This fall session is the first try at the program, and there will be a spring session to follow with five new Alta students. Lucas said that this isn’t the first time BFL has partnered with the local Outback Steakhouse.

“I’m always looking for opportunities to volunteer and help out in this community, and these guys do a lot to help feed the less fortunate,” said Lucas. “They want to do something for these students. I hope to help encourage them and introduce them to a possible career path.”

Lucas shared with the students that he had been introduced to the restaurant business at an early age after being suspended from school in his teens. His mother would take him with her to work where he would bus tables and wash dishes. He took to it, and has been in the industry ever since. Now, he is a restaurant owner.

BFL and Alta’s relationship continues to grow, as well. Levin shared that BFL provides Alta students with monthly healthy snacks and occasionally will serve them lunch. Last year, BFL hosted Alta’s end-of-the-year banquet. Alta students regularly earn community service hours by volunteering at BFL.

“BFL has supported Alta tremendously,” Levin said. “I think the students didn’t exactly get it at first, but they seem to really understand now what BFL does and are happy to be a part of it. It’s been great working with Outback, as well.”

To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Sheridan Cyr, email her at SCyr@SouthingtonObserver.com.

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