February 8

Get a Culinary Education Without Culinary School Prices

Manhattan’s Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center offers two culinary programs training young adults for the hospitality industry and placing them in restaurants around New York.

If you’re interested in receiving training for a culinary career but are turned off by the idea of pulling out hefty loans for the tuition fees associated with private culinary schools — then your best bet is to look within your community. There are many programs offered at a local level across the nation, creating pathways into culinary careers for those who need direction or lack resources and experience. The Stanley M. Isaacs Neighborhood Center (Isaacs Center) in Manhattan is one such place, and their two free culinary programs are recruiting for their upcoming cohort right now.

“Each year, we recruit, train, and place 75-100 students to successfully launch culinary careers,” Angie Marin, Director of Culinary Education at the Isaacs Center, told us. “These students possess the technical and interpersonal skills required for sustained success in the workplace.”

One of the most attractive aspects of the hospitality industry is that there is a low barrier to entry and anyone can work their way up given the skills and experience — education can be a perk, but it’s not a necessity. But, acquiring the fundamental skill sets through a focused program rather than working for years to get experience can allow a person to expedite landing higher-paying and more exciting roles within the culinary industry.

Unfortunately for many, the prices of culinary school are out of the question, and paying back loans on starting wages is a quick way to fall behind financially. This is why community-based programs, like the one offered through Isaacs Center, can be an invaluable resource for someone to gain the skills and connections needed to excel quicker in their careers.

“Students overwhelmingly select the program as a no-cost alternative to culinary school,” Marin described. “Our programs provide students with foundational technical skills training, industry-recognized leadership development instruction, and two years of rigorous career and financial coaching. This suite of services has been demonstrated to help students access a living wage job and enjoy increased economic mobility.”

The Isaacs Center is a Manhattan non-profit, multi-service organization that focuses on the needs of children and low-income families, out-of-school and out-of-work youth, and aging New Yorkers. They offer many services for young adults and senior citizens in their community. Their two culinary programs are at no cost to students and share the same curriculum but hold different outcomes and funding sources.

Their culinary programs are offered to young adults between 18-25 who live within the five boroughs of NYC. The programs require that cohorts have a high school diploma or equivalent, are unemployed, and are not currently enrolled in higher education.

Their Advance and Earn program is a 21-week program. Students receive intense culinary training for the first six weeks, covering everything from hard skills such as knife skills, butchery, baking, plating, and presentation to fundamentals such as proper work habits, professionalism, and the practice of food safety and sanitation. Students complete a leadership workshop through a program called Uplifting Leadership and obtain their NYC DOH Food Handler License and ServSafe Certification at no cost to the students.

“After week seven, students are placed at restaurants across New York City where they will complete a required 250-hour externship,” Marin explained. “Throughout the first few weeks, our worksite partners visit with our students to introduce themselves, and students have the opportunity to interview at their top choices.”

The other CWE culinary program focuses on job placement. Students receive the same curriculum within the first six weeks as the Advance and Earn program, but afterward, students obtain their DOH Food Handlers License and are placed directly into the workforce.

The perks of community programs like these are that they provide guidance, support, and opportunity for those that would otherwise not have them. So if you’re looking to break into the culinary industry and live within NYC’s five boroughs, or know someone who needs a little extra direction, check out the Isaacs Center’s culinary programs here. For everyone else, don’t second guess seeking community-based programs, sometimes they can be more cost-effective alternatives to culinary school and provide a wealth of resources to support you as you advance in your culinary career.


About the author

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.

About the author

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.