Much like their students, PCKatering at Philabundance is growing.
The Philadelphia hunger relief organization operates PCKatering, which is seeing an increase in orders, anticipating the move to a new building and giving community residents an even greater opportunity to develop their culinary skills.
The catering company comes with a social mission to provide professional-level food for events, while using the profits to support Philabundance Community Kitchen or PCK. PCK is a free 14-week job training program that includes 500 hours of culinary, life skills and employment classes for those with low-to-no income.
“We’re providing a service to change their lives and get back in the workforce,” said Chef Hugo Campos, who leads PCKatering. Campos worked in restaurants prior to coming to Philabundance, but found that he wanted a way to give back to the community.
Staffed completely by the current PCK job-training students and graduates, PCKatering provides work opportunities for community residents, giving them hands-on training and preparing them for real work experiences, Campos said.
PCKatering will have the opportunity to host more on-site events with the opening of a new PCK building in North Philadelphia this spring where Philabundance at-large will expand its job training and meal production capabilities.
“The whole point of catering … is just to follow back into the [PCK] program, to give our students not just the revenue, but also more projects and more experience and prepare them for the field,” Campos said. “We’re just going to have the ability to do it and do it well.”
The enterprise’s capacity has already skyrocketed in the current space, growing from two events a month to 20 events per month in the last year and a half, Campos said. And most of the catering customers have come via word-of-mouth.
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PCKatering staff who are current PCK students may have little cooking experience and are forced to become adaptable and learn many tasks on the spot. “We’re asking our students to be patient,” Campos said.
The rigorous training has a definite up side. Many past PCKatering and PCK students have successfully pursued employment in the restaurant industry after completing the program.
PCKatering’s profits support the PCK training program, which comes at a cost of $7,200 per student according to a Philabundance representative.
The catering company accepts orders through a questionnaire on their website or by email. They require two weeks notice for larger parties, Campos said.
The chef has cooked many of the dishes he teaches in the program many times over, but one of his favorite parts of being the instructor is watching the joy on a student’s face when they make something from scratch for the first time.
“You make a connection,” he said.-30-
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