Building Skills Transforming Lives


Rancho Cielo culinary academy opens doors for youths overcoming barriers

Monday, February 25, 2019 - 1:45pm

The cozily-lit dining room is rimmed with glass so patrons can look out onto a star-dotted Salinas night, distant crumpled mountains cradling the sky. Waiters slip between tables, delivering salads sprinkled with prosciutto and balsamic vinegar, followed by plates of tender pork chops and hand-made apple tarts. 

Pass through the doors to the kitchen and you’ll see staff quietly churning out plate after plate of locally-grown, seasonal food, the sous-chef calling out orders one after the other. 

One cook, stirring a risotto, calls over the head chef, Estevan Jimenez, asking him to taste it. It's mushy, and she doesn't know why.

After stirring, he hums and puts a little in his mouth.

“That’s what happens when you add cold stock,” he says, patiently, to an attentive student.

Although it has all the hallmarks of a professional operation, the restaurant at Rancho Cielo Youth Campus serves as a teaching kitchen for low-income kids, many of them also at-risk. As they learn how to prepare dishes, wait on customers and run a kitchen, they also develop soft and hard job skills they hope will prepare them for a bright future. 

For Rancho Cielo youth, the barriers they've faced prior to enrollment can range from homelessness to arrest, to simply not finding a public-school education compelling enough to sit through. 

Read the full story by Kate Cimini on TheCalifornian.com.

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