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CHEF JEFF BACON: Eliminating employment barriers one plate at a time

CHEF JEFF BACON: Eliminating employment barriers one plate at a time

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Imagine a social enterprise that went full circle. A culinary training program that resulted in a culinary residency, which then helped provide the necessary skills needed to eventually land a full-time job, all of which worked in conjunction with the local food bank.

It sounds too good to be true, right?

Think again.

“We don’t give a man a fish, we teach a man to fish,” says Jeff Bacon, the executive director of Providence Restaurant and Catering. “People go out to eat anyways but if you have the opportunity to go and eat and help someone [at the same time] then why not?”

By dining at Providence Restaurant or Providence Kitchen, diners are unknowingly supporting the graduates of a 13-week hands-on Providence Culinary Training program that works to help students from all walks to life, many of which often face barriers with unemployment or underemployment.

This mission is important to Bacon.

“That’s what we look for is those ah-ha moments of, ‘I can not only go out to eat but I can get involved with something pretty big here,’” he says. “It’s definitely something that life circumstances brought my way, at least at first and it’s definitely something I felt strongly to do. There are a lot of faith-based reasons behind that.”

All of the Providence programs are an extension of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Northwest North Carolina.

“Second Harvest supports us and we’re their adventurous child,” says Bacon. The enterprises are also supported through a series of additional partnerships that include Forsyth Technical Community College and Goodwill Enterprises of Northwest N.C., to name a few.

Originally, the Providence Culinary Training program began as the Triad Community Kitchen more than 10 years ago. Today, all proceeds from Providence Restaurant, Kitchen and Catering, and any donations made in lieu of tips, directly support the Providence Culinary Training program. It’s a full circle enterprise — raising money and awareness one recipe at a time — and something Bacon loves to be a part of.

“We want people to know about the mission but we also want to be an excellent place to dine — at both locations,” he says. “It’s cool to do this for a living and be able to help people at the same.”

Providence Kitchen is located at 200 W. Second St. while Providence Restaurant is housed off University Parkway in the DoubleTree Hotel.

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