Food and Jobs on the Menu in Brownsville

For a neighborhood celebration, BCCC students Chloe Hadley, left, and Travis Maxwell cooked jerk chicken and sliders. (Photo by Andrew Lichtenstein via The Bridge)

Since last summer, the Brownsville Community Culinary Center has guided young people in the underserved neighborhood on a career path in the culinary industry, as well as other fields, through a 40-week apprenticeship program. The center is also Brownsville’s first table-service restaurant in decades.

Writing in The Bridge, Madison J. Gray profiles the eatery and culinary training initiative.

The program includes classroom training and “externship” opportunities with food-service partners, but the heart of the process is the students’ experience working at the BCCC’s eatery and bakery. The center’s cuisine is “inspired by the history of the African Diaspora,” which translates into such offerings as black-eyed pea falafel salad ($7), jerk-chicken gyro ($6) and fish ‘n’ grits ($7). Customers who qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) get a 50% discount.

Co-founder Lucas Denton stresses: “It was important that we didn’t try to impose a grand solution to the community without its consent,” and instead “create a way for people to find their own path.”

Students in the center, 80% of whom are from the local area, are engaged in the food culture of the neighborhood: largely Caribbean, African and Southern American fare. “I hope residents can celebrate and endorse their food culture,” says Denton. “It’s some of the healthiest on the planet. I want this to serve as a bulwark against gentrification, not a destination spot for foodies.”

Go to The Bridge to find out how “BCCC was born out of a chance meeting” and much more on the center’s efforts in advocating for food justice.

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