Cooking Up Change

Culinary Program Teaches Skills For Life

Cooking Up Change

On a warm Friday night in July, one of Dallas’ most popular restaurants is bustling with diners enjoying the latest culinary trends. Single-source goat cheese and biscuit-crusted fish are just some of the delectable dishes featured on Café Momentum’s summer menu. But that’s not all that is special about this restaurant.

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From 2010 until 2012, Youth With Faces incubated Café Momentum, the innovative nonprofit restaurant and culinary-training facility that helps prepare youth in the juvenile justice system for success after release. Teens begin their training in Youth With Faces’ culinary program while still in custody. The course teaches culinary arts, food handling safety and nutritional education, then culminates with Youth With Faces culinary students leaving campus to work monthly dinner shifts at Café Momentum. About three out of four Youth With Faces graduates secure post-release employment. Many graduates of the Youth With Faces culinary program go on to paid internships at Café Momentum.

Work with Purpose

This particular evening in July, Youth With Faces trainee Sonny is beaming with pride as he works diligently throughout the restaurant. His shift includes prepping pastries, busing tables, washing dishes and other tasks that keep a busy restaurant running smoothly. The 17-year-old known for his contagious smile has made a complete transformation since entering the culinary career program.

“When I first met Sonny I noticed his gorgeous smile, but could tell he was still hanging on to whatever difficulties he had before landing in custody. They all do,” said Terry Lynn Crenshaw (TLC), Operations Director at Youth With Faces. “We can’t change that, but we can help them learn how to be more flexible. We are here to help them make good decisions and learn the skills to deal with anger management. I always tell them to walk with purpose.”

After completing his culinary training, TLC often called Sonny into classes with new trainees where he encouraged his peers to put their heart into the program.

Ready to Succeed

“Sonny had a lot anger management issues when he entered our program. His kindness was always there. He just needed someone to recognize it,” Crenshaw added. “Now he is a shining star and has the skills to succeed.”

Sonny was recently released from the juvenile justice system. As a graduate in the Youth With Faces culinary program, he has a certificate in food handling and ready to begin an internship. He has the skills to budget for and read recipes, plan and cook delicious meals, and meet the strict food-handling regulations required by the restaurant industry. Sonny is prepared to make an honest living he can be proud of.

“There isn’t anything that makes me feel better than putting a smile on customer’s face at Café Momentum,” said Sonny. “Being in the Youth With Faces culinary class inspired me to make a career out of cooking. I hope to become a personal chef and help support my mother and siblings.”

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