The Light House Homeless Prevention Support Center’s Building Employment Success Training (B.E.S.T.) Culinary Program, which gives a second chance to individuals who suffer from significant employment barriers, recently went virtual due to the Covid-19 health crisis. Students in the program met online with their instructors daily to learn subjects ranging from ServSafe Certification to knife skills. For one of their class modules, these B.E.S.T. culinary students sat down for a virtual session with Jeremy Hoffman, Co-Owner and Chef of the vibrant American restaurant, Preserve. Named “Favorite New Restaurant” by The Restaurant Association of Maryland in 2016, Preserve specializes in colorful dishes that focus on the flavors arising from preserving, pickling, and fermenting their locally sourced ingredients. B.E.S.T. students were able to participate in a dialogue about how a business such as Preserve is able to maintain their relationship with the Annapolis community in the onslaught of today’s COVID-19 pandemic.
During this virtual session, many students expressed an interest in the practical components of the adjustments Preserve, and many small businesses in the community have had to make. Some of the questions concerned how staff are maintaining communication with vendors, and what their plan is to reopen with the rest of the state. Students were also very curious about what it takes to be both a great chef and business owner.
Topics focused on balancing details of business management and overcoming personal challenges in doing so. Specific questions students asked included, “What made you want to own a restaurant versus working for one?” and “What were your initial fears, and how did you move through them with the opening of your restaurant?”
Chef Jeremy responded with words of encouragement:
“Your restaurant really should be about what you’re passionate about,” he said, explaining to students that his passion for pickling has been the guide for the concept of Preserve. He also shared his creative process with the class and walked students through all the thoughts that come alongside creating new dishes and composing a menu. Throughout the session, students practiced their familiarity with the culinary terms they have studied in their 12-week course with The Light House.
Concerning management strategies, Chef Jeremy noted that as a leader one must be the ultimate example in showing employees that, “They are working for someone who works hard.” He noted that what really matters when it comes to quality staff is a boldness in character— just like his dishes.
“The best candidates I see are kind of fearless” he said, remarking that personality is the most important factor in the working hands of Preserve. The dialogue between Chef Jeremy and the students was extremely valuable as it combined information on business development and encouragement in the creative process. This module reflected one of the core principles of the B.E.S.T. program, which is to give students experience and well-rounded insight into life in the culinary arts industry.
Even in light of the current pandemic, these B.E.S.T. Culinary Arts students passed their ServSafe certification exams, graduated on July 1st, and have all successfully attained employment. In the graduation ceremony, graduate Bernice expressed her love for cooking: “The creativity in cooking is endless, and that is what I am most passionate about. When I am cooking, I’m in a world of taste, texture, and the making of art.” In the midst of adversity, Light House’s B.E.S.T. Culinary Arts program supports this passion in students who now embark on their journey towards utilizing their skills, for a well-deserved place in the culinary arts industry.