Job experience a hot item on Goodwill's menu

The ten trainees and graduates from the Mi Fresh Start program worked side by side with restaurant staff preparing the meals.

Some people in northern Michigan got some special on-the-job training Monday night in the food industry.

Goodwill teamed up with The Cooksâ?? House in Traverse City for a pop-up restaurant. It's part of Goodwill's Mi Fresh Start program which provides workforce training for people in need of some help finding a job.

â??The only way to really train somebody in that field is to get some hands-on work experience for them,â?? said Brandon Seng, the Food Program Director for Goodwill Industries.

Dozens came out monday night for the pop-up dinner served by some of Goodwill's finest who were learning from the talented chef's at The Cooksâ?? House. Five courses later, trainees had something more important than a textbook lesson.

â??They've just been ecstatic about the chance to get their hands dirty and learn. It's all about learning, it's all about self-improvement and building that self-esteem and dignity that comes along with a job like this,â?? said Seng.

The ten trainees and graduates from the Mi Fresh Start program got an early start, working side by side with restaurant staff preparing the meals.

â??We gave them things we needed them to do: you know, prep the carrots or prep the pieces we need for the risotto,â?? explained Eric Patterson, Chef and Owner of The Cooksâ?? House. â??You guide them you mentor them a little bit. I think it's good for them to see a kitchen when it's running well you know I discipline the kitchen that sort of thing.â??

Justin Hubbell has been working with the Goodwill food truck for the past few months and served at the first pop-up restaurant, too.

â??Whether I'm working here or working on the food truck I seem to be learning a little bit more. That's what I like about working with Goodwill,â?? said Hubbell. â??It's a really good opportunity for us to learn and work together.â??

The Fresh Start program helps trainees like Hubbell get back on their feet and put their foot in the door for interviews.

â??It's real. So it gives them the opportunity at their next interview to say this is an event I worked on, here's what I worked on, here's what I did, here's what we served, here's what I learned. It just gives that conversation a place to start,â?? said Seng. "For an individual who has maybe been unemployed for a few years to walk into a high-end restaurant in the industry locally can be an intimidating factor. This partnership is critically important to us because it's about relationship building for our folks as well as for these restaurant partners."

Goodwill hopes to hold one of these events every other month. They say the response so far has been positive.

Find out when the next event will be held by following Mi Fresh Start Food Truck's Facebook page.