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Bringing new workers into the industry: One meal at a time.

Photo: Chrysalis
Photo: Chrysalis

A new non-profit grant program aims to train new back of house restaurant workers while providing meals to those in need.

The last year and a half have been tumultuous. From the pandemic disrupting the world to the racial injustices on display in the United States — the shock caused many of us to evaluate how we could do more in this world. For Kristel Arabian, founder of Kitchen Culture Recruiting, reflection led her to partner with Chrysalis, a non-profit that connects individuals facing socioeconomic barriers with jobs. Together, they are developing a grant program that creates a bridge between restaurants and communities in need.

“I saw how many restaurants were struggling with hourly hires and knew Chrysalis was a great resource for entry-level candidates,” said Arabian. “I came up with this grant program, loosely modeled after grants my colleagues at One Fair Wage and High Road Restaurants were working on and melded it with the work that the Restaurant Workers Relief Program was doing in early COVID days.”

Arabian has spent much of her career advocating for restaurants through leadership in multiple restaurant coalitions at the national and local levels. Recognized for her work, Arabian was approached by a philanthropic donor to team up with Chrysalis. The collaboration resulted in a solution to the problems of restaurant staffing, unemployment, and feeding those in need.

The grant awards $5,000 to restaurants to produce a determined amount of meals for a community in need of their choice. Grant awardees will take on two entry-level candidates from Chrysalis to work three 8-hour shifts preparing and packaging the meals. In addition, Chrysalis’ donor partner covers the cost of the hourly wage and insurances of employees for the project, but the hope is that the restaurant will hire the individuals after the three-day trial.

Grants are currently available to restaurants in the Southern California area, but the goal is to scale the program nationally. Arabian envisions that the funding will grow as this program takes off. “We work very much in tune with the needs of our partnered restaurants,” she explained. “Our two grant recipients, Ronan in Los Angeles and Little Coyote in Long Beach, are both independently owned and operated businesses. The set grant amount was perfect for their type of operation and size, but we may decide to change this down the line, and tailor fit the amount to suit the businesses.”

For Arabian, Chrysalis’s work to create a pipeline of workers — especially those who may be entry-level that she recognizes the restaurant industry is currently struggling to find, sealed the deal on their partnership. Chrysalis has been operating since 1984 and has worked with restaurateurs like Chef Curtis Stone to help staff both his restaurants, Maude and Gwen, located in Southern California. The grant program that Arabian and Chrysalis have developed combines their expertise to create a compatible solution to staffing while simultaneously giving back to communities in need.

As we navigate the subsequent phases of the pandemic, many will continue to experience economic insecurity. A helping hand in the form of employment and a free meal to those in need will go a long way in rebuilding post-pandemic; this grant encourages that. Restaurants looking to fill back of house hourly or entry-level positions will find a great group of candidates through Chrysalis by contacting hire@ChangeLives.org. To stay connected or learn more about the program, please visit Chrysalis’s website.

Ashley McNally

Ashley McNally likes to cook, loves to bake, and is always dreaming of her next meal. With over 13 years of experience working in various roles within a restaurant — McNally has made a home in hospitality.

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