Groundwork Kitchen, the latest social enterprise from Paul’s Place, offers Pigtown residents a space to find farm-to-table dishes and pursue culinary passions. The new initiative, which launched July 20, serves as a restaurant and a culinary arts training program where students gain practical experience from back-of-house to front-of-house operations.
William McLennan, creator of this initiative, serves as executive director of Paul’s Place. The nonprofit charity provides programs for housing, employment, health care and education to Baltimore’s low-income population.
“William had a vision to expand (Paul’s Place) services in the neighborhood with a restaurant that served as an enterprise where people can learn marketable skills to help them succeed in the food service industry,” says Groundwork Kitchen’s executive chef Kimberly Triplett.
The program occupies a 14,000-square-foot building with a state-of-the-art training facility on the bottom level and a 100-seat restaurant on the top. In addition to offering students practical working experience, the restaurant serves an American fare menu that Triplett created.
Modeled on FareStart’s successful Catalyst Kitchens model, Groundwork Kitchen’s 12-week program is open to individuals ages 18 to 80 who fall below Baltimore City’s median income. Not only is the program free, but it also provides students with a stipend for living expenses and resources for child care, transportation and housing.
Groundwork plans to hold four cohorts a year and hopes to have 20 students when its first session launches Oct. 4. Once they graduate, students will earn a ServSafe certificate, receive help in job placement and gain six-month professional support from Groundwork.
“In view of the current situation in the food industry, there’s been a lot of positive momentum and interest,” says program director Ellen Levy. “We’ve received a lot of applications, and a ton of potential customers are already looking to book catering and reservations to support the mission we have.”