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Changing Lives and Building Confident Individuals Through Culinary Training

By Marina Jokic

In addition to significantly reducing recidivism, Café Momentum creates opportunities for long-term, sustainable employment for at-risk groups. As a testament to the success of its educational model, in 2015 the Citi Foundation and America's Promise Alliance announced that the café was recipient of the Youth Opportunity Fund. The fund is a three million initiative intended to connect youth to innovative training programs that prepare them for lifelong success.

Elysse Delia Alvarado, Program Assistant at the café, explains that the twelve-month internship offers culinary and hospitality training. "Every intern is provided a case manager, acting as a personal advocate who provides support and lessons in life skills," says Alvarado. Participation in the internship is voluntary, so there is no pressure on kids to enter. Café Momentum has longstanding relationships with both the Dallas County and the juvenile justice department.

In addition to mentoring interns at the restaurant, case managers do outreach seminars at detention facilities and county programs. Participation requirements dictate that interns must be between the ages of fifteen and eighteen years old, released from a juvenile program or facility within the last twelve months, and must have been adjudicated in Dallas County. "For most of our interns, working at Café Momentum is their first introduction to cooking and fine dining," points out Alvarado.

The program trains young adults so that they can master different skill sets and explore diverse career options in the future. The café partners with many other establishments such as hotels and airports to offer job placements. Even though the primary skills the interns learn are within the scope of a restaurant, they are applicable to a number of different professions.

Interns have the chance to participate in classes such as anger management, financial literacy, goal setting, and time management in addition to on-the-job training. The aim is to have the interns fully prepared to enter the workforce when they graduate from the program. One of their first graduates secured employment, prior to graduation day, with a major hotel partner in the area. The seventeen-year-old young man now enjoys full benefits such as paid time off and even access to an employer-matching 401k plan.

Café Momentum is also a great place to get a delicious meal and feel good about the money you are spending. The restaurant has received multiple accolades by local and national publications and has been featured on several popular cooking shows. The café proudly serves fresh, locally sourced, and sophisticated American cuisine. Each and every meal is prepared and served by a team of exceptional chefs as well as the young participants of the program.

The food is elegant and simple. For your first course, choose from the Cauliflower and Turnips with capers and crème fraiche, the Chicken Live Mousse with sweet onion jam, the Octopus Tiradito with oil-cured olives and lemon, or Shrimp and Grit Beignets with aioli. Second course dishes include Roasted Beets with cocoa nibs and brie, Smoked Carrot Soup, and the Paul Quinn Pea Shoots with prosciutto and goat cheese.

The Seared Scallops, Moroccan 7 Vegetable Couscous, and Short Rib Pot Pie are some of the main entrees. Finish off your evening with a delectable dessert such as the traditionally southern Fried Pie with caramelized pear, and smoked pecan praline ice cream or the Berry Dump Cake with cinnamon crème fraiche ice cream and walnut streusel.

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About The Author

Marina Jokic holds a bachelor's degree from Connecticut College in Russian and East...

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