At-risk teens taught restaurant skills, healthy eating by LA nonprofit

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A program started by the owner of Fig & Olive restaurant helps kids from low-income neighborhoods learn cooking and restaurant skills. (KABC)

Teens at Fig & Olive are learning the ropes of restaurant work: How to hostess, set tables, wait tables and cook.

But the lessons go much further.

"To choose simple ingredients, they learn about nutrition. They are going to learn teamwork," said Laurent Halasz, owner of Fig & Olive restaurant.

Halasz also created the Farm & Kitchen Foundation, to help kids who might need an extra opportunity or incentive to succeed.

He was approached by LAPD Officer Glenda Brooks about helping kids in Hollenbeck.

"Hollenbeck is 14 square miles and within those 14 square miles we have 39 gangs," Brooks said. "So giving these children the opportunity means the world to them."

Halasz told Brooks: "I'd like to invite 15 to 20 of your kids to come in. I'll teach them how to cook, we'll take them out to the farm, they'll pick the food, we'll bring them back. They'll cook the food and we'll teach them healthy eating and will also teach them the restaurant business so that when they go to college they can be a waiter or waitress," said Brooks.

The Farm and Kitchen Foundation is much more than just food and food service. Considering where these kids come from, they want them to experience all kind of opportunities in life.

"They also teach you financial aid, about your future, what to do, what to expect in college," said J.C. Cordoba of Boyle Heights.

The technical skills are important. There's also yoga, fishing and Catalina trips.

Diana Vasquez, who wants to be a chef, likes the program for the socialization.

"Being involved with other people made me be less shy," said Vasquez of Boyle Heights.

"I want to be a policeman but I want to change the world," Cordoba said.
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