About 3.5 million Americans are likely to be homeless in any given year.
Among industrialized nations, the U.S. has the largest number of homeless women and children.
Now, an accomplished chef has made it her mission to help these women get back on their feet. She’s helping them cook up opportunity!
The slicing, the sizzle, and the smells; Chef Connie Crabtree-Burritt loves it all as she helps homeless women learn her passion.
"One of the things that we know is to get out of a bad situation,” says Crabtree-Burritt. "You need to work, and one of the things I know is that culinary can be a career."
She offers three, eight-week programs a year. The women learn cooking and life skills.
“You're not going to be a chef in eight weeks, but you can be a good employee," Crabtree-Burritt explains.
Erica Black and Tellita Crawford came to Crabtree-Burritt with no home and no job. Now, they both work in the food industry.
"I really realized that I have a talent in food service,” says Crawford.
“It's just given me a lot of hope for the future," Black says.
Crabtree-Burritt instructed them on how to make an Eggplant Napoleon.
First, they sliced tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and the eggplant. Next, the eggplant pieces went in water and lemon juice.
Then, they dipped the eggplant in an egg wash, coated it with breadcrumbs, and fried it in a pan.
Next came the stacking.
They added a dab of habanero sauce, and then a layer of eggplant, cheese, tomato, another eggplant, a little tomato, some lemon zest, and parsley to top it off.
The final product was simple but elegant.
Crabtree-Burritt says cooking is fun, but also hard work.
"If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen," she explains. “That's pretty much how it is!"
However, these women can take the heat and it’s changed their lives.
Crabtree-Burritt says her program has a job employment rate of about 40 percent, but that number fluctuates.
The classes are small, consisting typically of eight to ten students at a time.