Bradley Central High School culinary arts students may begin to look more and more like professional chefs as the school year continues.
Indian Ministries of North America, a local Christian nonprofit organization, donated bags of chef uniforms to the school earlier this week.
The Cleveland-based organization works with Native American tribes throughout the country to teach them about the Christian faith and things like job skills.
Founder James Hughes, who is of Cherokee descent, said he felt called to help those who shared a similar kind of heritage.
“One of our main purposes is to bring hope,” said Angela Hughes Ruiz, the organization’s administrative assistant and Hughes’ daughter, noting societal problems like suicide were found in higher rates around Native American reservations.
Ruiz said the organization tries to give clothes and other items to those who need them, and a company had recently given them a large donation of a type of clothes they could not immediately use — chef uniforms.
She said she attended BCHS as a student, and her son is currently a student there. While the high school’s student body encompasses more than just those of Native American heritage, she said the goals of her organization and of the school’s culinary arts program are similar — to help young people succeed.
“Since we do a lot of youth mentoring, this is a really good program,” Ruiz said.
She said buying a chef uniform could be too expensive for some students, and several more students will now be able to wear them when they do such activities as catering food for events.
The organization also has plans to donate chef uniforms to Cleveland High School’s culinary arts program and any other local schools who might be in need of them, she said.
Richmond Flowers, head of the culinary arts department at BCHS, said students being able to wear professional uniforms while they work actually makes them feel they have the potential to be on the same level as chefs who have been working longer than they have.
“It just brings a more professional image,” he said.
Flowers said he encourages all of his students who can to purchase uniforms, but it can be difficult for some students to afford the $50 price tag attached to one.
He said culinary arts students have become more and more visible in the community as more of them have participated in catering events and taken part in cooking competitions than in the past.
The culinary arts program receives $2,000 from the school each year, Flowers said. However, that number does not include travel expenses to competitions and other costs. Students are left to help raise funds by catering events. So far, students have served everything from small buffets of hors d'oeuvres to full, sit-down dinners.
While they are raising money for their program, the high school’s culinary arts students are also able to gain valuable experience in their field.
Flowers said many of his former students had landed jobs as chefs, and he hopes the trend will continue as he keeps teaching students how to chop and sauté.
“That’s our goal — get them into work,” he said. “We produce students who can make a living. It’s because they do well while they are here.”