Getting ready for the hospitality industry’s return

The eight-week culinary program includes McCormick Place cooks who were laid off at the beginning of the pandemic.

SHARE Getting ready for the hospitality industry’s return
Culinary students work during the first class on Monday April 19, 2021 at the McCormick Place.

Culinary students work during the first class Monday at McCormick Place.

Unite Here Chicago Hospitality Institute

A culinary apprenticeship program kicked off Monday at McCormick Place to prepare cooks for the hospitality industry’s return.

Some of the students were among those laid off from hospitality jobs at the start of pandemic-related shutdowns in March 2020. The Unite Here Chicago Hospitality Institute program was slated to start last year.

“In early 2020, we were on the verge of launching the first culinary apprenticeship class,” board member Eric Centazzo said.“Everything came to a grinding halt because of the pandemic, as the hospitality industry and our workforce were hit especially hard.”

Students hope the program can give them a second chance in their careers.

“I got my passion for cooking from my mother,” said Satara Pirant, a cook who works for Savor McCormick Place and is participating in the program. “I’m proud that I will be able to welcome visitors back to McCormick Place with the world-class culinary training I’m going to receive.”

The apprenticeship program is sponsored by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and the Apprenticeship Illinois program.

“COVID-19 devastated the hospitality industry, leaving many without jobs,” said Jay Rowell, executive director of HIRE360. “We are proud to advocate for UHCHI, which reflects the comeback of the hospitality industry and the immediate need for talent to fill a surge in jobs.”

HIRE360, a nonprofit that connects underserved minority businesses and communities to jobs in the building trades, applied for the apprenticeship grant to recruit for and fund the training.

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