Chinese American Service League celebrates 40 years

Chicago Proud
CHICAGO (WLS) -- May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month and one organization celebrating 40 years of service is making us Chicago Proud.

The Chinese American Service League is dedicated serving nearly 11,000 people every year. One of the organization's longest-running programs, the Culinary Training Program, is used to teach and help employ the next generation of culinary pros.

This family business is the result of making one decision that changed their lives.

"I originally went to CASL for a painting class, a lesson and someone told me that there is a culinary training program and asked if I would be interested. Since I am very interested in cooking so I got enrolled," said Jian Ying Zhu. She and her nephew Kris are graduates of the CASL Culinary Training Program.

The 16-week course includes hands-on experience, Vocational English as a Second Language, a Chicago Food Sanitation Certificate and Job placement services. The program's head instructor says many people are spreading the word about the opportunity.

"Word of mouth works the best in the community. If people are excited and we do good things and get people good jobs then word spreads then ultimately I think that's how we get most of our students in," said Chef Anastasia Barantchouk, head instructor, CASL Culinary Training Program.

The program has placed more than 1,500 students in culinary positions over the years, partnering with over 100 culinary industry employers.

"I think we open up a lot of opportunities for people coming in, new immigrants. In a city like Chicago culinary jobs are everywhere," Barantchouk said.

The Zhu family says they owe their new found success of opening "WJ Noodles" in Greektown, to all they learned in the program.

"I learned a lot a lot for the culinary program. It taught me cooking skills and customer service skills and I also learned about the importance of sanitation and I was ready to open my restaurant," Jian Ying Zhu said.

"I would say that the culinary training program helped us a lot to prepare us for going into to food preparation industry and maybe other industries too," Kris Zhu said.

CASL will celebrate their 40th Anniversary Gala on Thursday night.
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