Chicago teens get a taste of culinary school

CHICAGO (WLS) -- In the Kendall College kitchen, it's no secret the chefs are working hard.

But little can be heard beyond the hum of rolling pins and ovens-perhaps surprising for a group of high schoolers. But that's what happens when people focus on their passion.

"I was praying that I could do this," said 15-year-old Malik Waddy.

He wants to open a restaurant-and has been working toward that goal since he was about seven years old.

"I've always wanted to become a chef so getting the experience has been a dream come true," said Waddy.

The opportunity? Attending Kendall College Trust's culinary camp for a week- on scholarship. Waddy's one of about 50 Chicago teens getting this summer treat... and the chance to build a professional network.

"They're not only learning industry skills, they're being introduced to people in the industry," explained Kendall College's Terrell Johnson.

He wants to provide a foundation for these kids-and added rigor for those who return.

"Fine dining recipes, higher skills that they're learning to match them out the door so they feel challenged from day one," Johnson said.

Kendall College Trust Executive Director Catherine De Orio created the program to teach culinary skills and build community.

"They're meeting other students that are interested in the same thing," De Orio said.

She wants that community to learn something new beyond the kitchen too.

"A lot of these students haven't been to downtown Chicago... they get to see the city that they live in and open their eyes to other opportunities," she added.

Yesterday the group tried indoor skydiving. Tonight a city tour and dinner out on the town.

Then at the end of the evening, "I'm living in a college dorm," said 15-year-old Aliyah Washington.

Chicago Public Schools, which partnered with Kendall College Trust for this project, also provides culinary education. Program director David Blackmon says it's important to give kids options.

"They can go straight into the industry, they can go to culinary school or they can go to a four year college to pursue a degree."

Last summer, just 21 teens got this taste of culinary school. But thanks to new grant money, the Kendall College Trust more than doubled access to build a bigger pipeline for the culinary industry's future.
Based on the smells in this kitchen, the future is bright!
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