On the morning of March 4, the first day of the fourth annual Community Kitchen fry, founder and CEO Jennifer Flanagan tells Pittsburgh City Newspaper they received about five times more pre-orders than any previous year. Last year and the previous year, Community Kitchen offered only takeaways, and although this year they still offer takeaway food, Flanagan says everyone is “very happy” to return in person.
Their menu of fried fish has haddock, rubbed by hand. “I know people are very careful about the kind of fish they get from french fries,” Flanagan says. “We make fish in batter, fresh french fries. We are doing everything we can here. We make cabbage salad, we make dumplings, we make our own tartar sauce. We are a culinary school, right? So why not make everything fresh? ”
However, the Community Kitchen Pittsburgh is not just a culinary school. “We tend to support people who have barriers to employment, or people who want to return to the workforce,” Flanagan says. Their Hazelwood space offers paid training programs, transitional employment opportunities, training and employment services to connect students to stable jobs higher than entry-level in the culinary industry. According to the website Community Kitchen Pittsburgh, all programs are free, they pay their members.
“Some of our people are coming out of prison, some of them are coming out of homelessness,” Flanagan says. “We had women coming out of domestic violence situations. We also had dropouts in high school. And then we had people who just needed to get back into the workforce. They want to change professions. So we have a whole staff to manage cases, and we’re doing a lot of work to remove barriers for people so they can get successful jobs. ”
Flanagan says that in addition to their largest annual fundraiser, Fry gives students a valuable opportunity to learn and work in a more restaurant-like environment. “We don’t have a lot of opportunities for our students to learn a la carte,” she says, “and that’s ticket food. You know, fast pace. It definitely gives them such an experience, so for our students it’s a really great learning opportunity. ”
If they don’t fry fish for sandwiches, Pittsburgh Community Kitchen students learn culinary skills by helping organizations produce about 2,000 dishes each day.
“These dishes go to shelters or other nonprofits, baby food programs, mostly vulnerable low-income groups who don’t have food security,” Flanagan says. “And that’s why our students study their program in the context of food every day. They learn to trade, giving back to the community, and it’s a really beautiful full circle. ”
Flanagan also wants visitors to know that all the advice and donations received from the kids go to their student aid fund, which supports students with barriers to employment. “This Student Aid Fund is really crucial in the form of support we can offer,” she says. “We helped a woman who left domestic violence get a new apartment, we helped people get their driver’s licenses back, helping people with what comes for them, which will affect their ability to get and keep a job.”
Fish potatoes at the Community Kitchen Pittsburgh. 11.00-19.00 from Friday to April 15. Pre-orders are encouraged. 107 Flowers Ave., Hazelwood. ckpgh.org/events/2022/3/4/fish-fry-friday or 412-246-4736