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Upcountry South Carolina News


Date ArticleType
5/30/2018 Other
Healthy Food Hub

BY  for Edible Upcountry

When I meet Chef Courtney Lindsey in his kitchen at the Monarch Café in Spartanburg, he offers an elbow bump in greeting. He’s at work already on this early spring morning, prepping vegetables for the day’s menu, a well-ordered dice of red pepper slipping off the knife edge. Lunch service starts at 11.

I am (like always) late. I have a laundry list of excuses I offer— traffic, construction, science homework— and plenty I don’t. It’s no matter. Courtney wasn’t waiting on me.

“Time is against you when you’re in the kitchen.” He means this literally, and conceptually. If he gives his staff a task, the clock is already ticking, hungry people waiting. But also, when it comes to dreams of owning their own restaurants, running their own catering businesses, time is already against them too.

80% of the staff for Monarch Café comes from The Culinary Job Training Program, a 15-week course for unemployed, underemployed, homeless or previously incarcerated people looking for careers in food service. The program is sponsored by The Butterfly Foundation, next door neighbors to the café here at Northside’s new healthy food hub, Harvest Park. Courtney grew up in this neighborhood. He’s a graduate of the culinary program himself.

“It’s a free education,” he says, “but it ain’t really free. Everybody’s spirit is different, but it’s going to take something from you.” He remembers those days of early mornings in class and long shifts at work afterward, holding down a job so he could train for a better job. After supporting him, Courtney’s wife is now a graduate of the program, too.

“It ain’t free,” he says again. “You will pay with your time.” For as stern as this sounds, when I ask what it’s like to work with these graduates he’s got one of those good laughs, the kind that fills the space between us.

“Like working with a stick of dynamite,” he says. “They’re getting two years worth of knowledge in 15 weeks, loads of new knowledge they’re itching to practice.” Knife skills, stocks and sauces, techniques with seafood, grains and pastas. His advice to students is to get comfortable with recipes and conversions, how to make things bigger or smaller. “Math is the most important skill in the kitchen,” he says. “I don’t care what anybody tells you. I’m glad I was strong in that in school.”

He says sometimes people need to be reminded of the routine of this career, the rhythm of doing the same prep every day. “There’s the glamour on TV, but the hard work is cleaning pots,” he says. “It’s humbled me.”

He’s still cutting peppers while we’re talking, running his knife around the vegetable’s core to lay it flat, measuring strips into neat squares. It’s technique he learned in this kitchen, and now he uses it in this kitchen.

“This is an opportunity,” he says. He emphasizes it. Opportunities aren’t free either.

Read the rest of the article: http://edibleupcountry.ediblecommunities.com/food-thought/harvest-park-healthy-food-hub