Hometown Heros: Cooking up a second chance

- Ray Kennedy has always dreamed of becoming a chef.

"My grandad was a chef and I always liked cooking. I feel like this is my time now. I want to own my own restaurant," he explained.

Ray has had some trouble in the past, but says he's ready to make a change.
"I'm on a clean track. I have a clean record. That's why I'm taking control of the situation and really trying to make the best out of it," he continued.

Ray is getting a second chance thanks to the St. Petersburg Culinary Center. The non-profit program gives at-risk youth and young adults the training they need to work in any restaurant or professional kitchen.

"They get a resume, an education credential, and they have a skill set where they can go to any restaurant in the country. They can do basic knife skills and basic food prep," said SPCC's program director, Dr. Michael Lynch.

Each one of the students at SPCC has a passion for cooking, and some of them, like Ray, don't mind showing off their skills in the kitchen.

Donations make this program possible, along with volunteers like David Carney, who provide students free one-on-one training.

But the Culinary Center does more than just teach students how to cook; when the 11-week course is over, they help each graduate get a job and provide lifelong career growth and guidance.

"Changing lives is our motto and that's what we're all about doing. And our goal is to change 30 lives a year," said Dr. Lynch. 

Ray Kennedy can't wait until the course is over, because he knows when it ends, his dreams of becoming a chef will finally begin.

MORE INFORMATION: www.stpeteculinary.org

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