Marisa Chearavanont, founder of Chef Cares Foundation, said that this latest initiative is following the foundation's success in mobilizing a collective effort from 73 top chefs to spread compassion through donated quality meals to Thailand's frontline health care workers during the initial COVID-19 outbreak and lockdown period.
She added that the volunteer chefs in the Chef Cares network had expressed their interests in creating opportunities for underprivileged youth who are passionate about cooking.
"Though they may come from a challenging background, it is our intention to give these young adults every opportunity to pursue an upstanding career. The culinary education will equip them with skills, knowledge and positive thinking. And our world-class chefs will provide inspiration and mentorship to put them on the path to becoming valuable members of society," she said.
The inaugural class consists of 12 young adults, with ages ranging from 18-24. Half of the group comes from Thailand's juvenile corrections system, while the other six come from marginalized communities in various areas of Thailand, including hill tribe members, who were nominated by the Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University's Center of Communication and Development Knowledge Management.
Sharing their passion for the culinary arts with the group, the youth were recently welcomed to the Panyapiwat Institute of Management (PIM) by Marisa Chearavanont, Nattapol Pavapaiboon (Chef Nick) from Wang Hinghoi, Chumpol Jangprai (Chef Chumpol) from R-Haan and Henk Savelberg (Chef Henk) from Savelberg.
Chef Nick said that as a restaurant owner, aside from cooking techniques, he is eager to promote positive thinking among the youngsters. "They will be given an opportunity to prove. I'm convinced that they will learn a lot from this course and at the end, they will be more positive towards themselves and society," said Chef Nick.
Duangporn Ukris, Director of the Juvenile Justice System Development Division, praised Chef Cares Foundation for providing such a wonderful opportunity. "I have never known any scholarship program as comprehensive as this. It is delivering knowledge and understanding to the minors who yearn for the "opportunity" to reenter society. Any minor who demonstrates competency and good behaviors can also seek court consent for early exit and return home to begin his or her career," she said.
The students were selected after submitting their profile and going through an interview process, and each will receive a full scholarship for the 5 month program that consists of two months of intensive professional culinary training at PIM followed by a three month practical internship in the kitchen of a top chef from the Chef Cares network. The program is meant to give them a solid footing in the culinary arts that they can use as a springboard to becoming a professional chef, while also providing inspiration for others in their peer groups to become aspiring chefs.
Along the way, the students will also have the benefit of a competency development program under a psychiatrist's supervision. This program aims to boost the student's self-determination and resilience by helping them better understand their strengths and weaknesses, with the goal of increasing their potential while also managing potential obstacles. The program will also help the youth adjust to the demands of restaurant work, with a focus on becoming a good team player through effective communication that enhances cooperation.
About Chef Cares: Chef Cares began in March of 2020 as a collaborative effort combining Thailand's top chefs with generous sponsors of quality ingredients to create and donate delicious and nutritious meals to frontline hospital and transit personnel during the initial fight against COVID-19. Over a period of three and a half months, project successfully delivered over 30,000 meals and helped to lift spirits during a difficult time. The overwhelmingly positive response led founder Marisa Chearavanont to create Chef Cares Foundation with a mission to "Promote Thai gastronomy and contribute to society through the care and compassion of chefs".