INDIANAPOLIS — Jeffery Hartfield is a Line Cook for Flatwater Restaurant on the canal in Broad Ripple.
For him, the staff is like his family, and the customers are his community.
"I'm walking down the street, and people are like hey Jeff! Hey Jeff!," says Hartfield. "Ya know, I just love this place."
Hartfield first got his start here about five years ago just one day after graduating from the Culinary Job Training Program through Second Helpings in Indianapolis.
The organization not only meets the short term needs of our community by providing food to people in need, but Second Helpings uses this training program to make an impact on a person's long term needs of starting a career.
"This class is about opportunity," says Second Helpings Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Vigran. "It's about building a better future. This is a big commitment."
The students meet five days a week full time for seven weeks. On top of that time commitment, students are also expected to complete homework assignments, quizzes, and tests.
So far, the program has graduated nearly 800 men and women with the skills they need to work in a kitchen.
"We never know all the impacts this program has on someone's life," says Vigran. "Everybody comes here for different reasons, different challenges.
But we do know that it does make a difference. It does send people on a great path to self-sufficiency."
For Hartfield, he first heard about the program at a time when his life really needed it.
"I had no direction, no path, ya know," says Hartfield. "But I always loved to cook. I just heard about second helpings through church, ya know. I really wasn't employed, ya know. And I said, ok... I want a career. I didn't want a job. I wanted a career."
So even Indy's snowy winter in 2014, Hartfield didn't miss class. At the time the program was ten weeks, and he completed it in March of 2014.
"It's challenging," says Hartfield. "It's not easy. But it's worth it, ya know, because I mean if it were easy, the payoff wouldn't be as great."
For Hartfield, his payoff comes working a job he loves with people he calls family.
He cooks a lot of love into each dish he serves his customers.
"The patio is full, and we've got the music going, and I just take a peak out of the kitchen out here and see everyone enjoying themselves. And I say to myself, man, I cooked that food that they are eating right there," says Hartfield. "I know this is like a cliche, but I can really say that I love my job."
Second Helpings gave Hartfield a new life and a sense of pride. It's a feeling many graduates of the program display, including those who come back and share their success stories.
For Vigran, the best days are not graduation -- although she loves watching the students graduate. For her, the best days are when the graduates return to hire people who are completing the program.
"My favorite day is the day they come back to hire another graduate," says Vigran. "There's a lot of pride. A lot of pride and dignity in employment and in work and building your own future."
To make the training possible for all, each student is provided with uniforms, textbooks and other assistance so they can concentrate on their training with fewer distractions.
Students can expect homework each night, plus quizzes and tests.
Each step in the 7-week program ensures students are focused on mastering lessons and skills taught each day.
Second Helpings' Culinary Job Training program is a "Program of Excellence" by the American Culinary Federation and is taught by two professional chefs on staff, and guest chef instructors who come straight from the industry to teach specialty skills. Instructors take time to answer questions and offer advice to make sure students can master the skills needed.
The Culinary Job Training program offers skills beyond the kitchen, too.
Each student receives financial literacy training with BMO Harris Bank, and resume and job interview training with human resources professionals.
Students have in-house job placement assistance from our staff Employment Specialist, and job search training from our partners at the John H. Boner Community Center.
Each Second Helpings graduate is eligible for five credit hours from the culinary program at Ivy Tech Community College and ServSafe Certification.
For more information and to find out how you can take part in this opportunity for a culinary career, visit the Second Helpings website.