CSN’s Culinary Program turns homeless into chefs

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The College of Southern Nevada’s culinary program is a ten-week program getting people back on their feet.

CSN culinary professor Chef John Metcalfe started the program 21 years ago in partnership with the local Salvation Army. This week, nine people graduated from the program. 

“To them, it means a new start,” said Chef Steve Soltz. 

During the program, students sleep in special dorms at the Salvation Army. When they’re not in class at CSN, they get on-the-job training preparing and serving 500 meals a day in the Salvation Army kitchen. 

“It taught me a lot about cooking, about working together, about team work, so it has been an experience that no one will ever take away from me,” said student Alycia Toliver. 

Toliver is one of nine people who graduated this week from the program.

“I was able to maintain a livelihood with telemarketing until October of last year. One incident changed my life,” she said. 

Toliver went to the Salvation Army for help. Now, she’s a cook. 

“I lost everything,” Toliver said. “I didn’t know what to do or where to go.” 

After graduating from the program, the students will earn college credits that they can apply toward a culinary certificate or degree. 

The CSN Culinary Arts Program is ranked 7th in the nation. 

“I love it. I love the people in it. I actually enjoy cooking. I hope to succeed in this field,” Toliver said.

The program has a 97% employment rate with more than half of this week’s graduates have jobs in the culinary field lined up already.

“Once they graduate here, they can get jobs,” said Soltz. “That’s the ultimate goal… to get them self-sufficient and employed.”

The program is funded by JobConnect, which provides the funding, tuition and supplies for participating students. 

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