/SIRCH’s Cook it Up program coming to Minden in March
Guests enjoy the food at SIRCH's Cook It Up at Baked and Battered. The free meal is open to anyone and gives servers the chance to learn what it's like to work in the food industry. /Photo supplied by SIRCH

SIRCH’s Cook it Up program coming to Minden in March

By Nate Smelle

Published Jan. 25 2018

For the fourth year in a row SIRCH will be running its Cook it Up program. Aiming to help the unemployed underemployed or anyone interested in getting into the food service industry Cook it Up provides participants with the opportunity to gain the skills and confidence necessary to get hired and provide high quality service.

SIRCH’s food initiatives coordinator Diane McKnight said the program will last 14 weeks and there will only be spaces available for eight to 10 people. Throughout the program participants will learn how to create a menu shop budget and scale a recipe to serve a meal for up to 60 people. McKnight said trainees will also earn certifications in safe food handling Smart Serve WHIMIS knife safety and customer service excellence.

“Cook it Up focuses on people who want to work in a little more confidence and skill building” she said.

“The program promotes meaningful interaction between our trainees and the public which is something that helps them boost their confidence. We are also reaching out to all restaurant owners in the Minden and Haliburton area and we are hoping that they will employ some of the people who are taking this program.”

McKnight said that every Monday starting on March 5 the Cook it Up crew will serve a free lunch (or by donation) for the community at Molly’s Bistro Bakery in Minden between noon until 2 p.m. For the next 10 weeks trainees will serve up a different three-course meal each Monday with the final lunch being served on May 7.

According to McKnight the menu will be posted on SIRCH’s Facebook page on the Friday prior to each of the community lunches. She is hopeful that the community will come out to Molly’s and show their support for the program while enjoying a delicious meal.

“What I found most exciting was watching the participants grow in their positivity and confidence level” said McKnight.

“It’s amazing to see them go from not being able to prep and cook a meal to prepping cooking and serving a meal for up to 60 people and doing all of this on a budget.”

SIRCH’s Cook it Up has been made possible with funding by the City of Kawartha Lakes. McKnight said they are “extremely grateful” for their support in helping SIRCH offer the free program.

Pointing out that much of the employment in the area is in the hospitality field McKnight said Cook it Up improves the quality of life of people in the community by helping them enter the workforce.

Having worked on the program over the last two years McKnight said she has seen how it benefits the trainees and the community. In fact she acknowledged that in the first three years they have had a 76 per cent employment rate for participants who completed the program.

“We are hoping to get lots of applicants to Cook it Up” McKnight said.

“This is an incredible opportunity to learn new skills in a positive creative environment as well as have fun meet new people develop an attitude of gratitude and focus on the bright side of life.”

With limited spots available McKnight encourages anyone interested in participating in the course to register as soon as possible. To register or for more information on Cook it Up contact Diane McKnight at 705-457-1742 x27; or email diane_mcknight@sirch.on.ca.