Finding a place at the table for everyone

Wake Tech President Scott Ralls helped announce on June 15 a new program that will address the hospitality labor shortage. (Photo: Wake Tech)

A new partnership is addressing hospitality labor shortage in North Carolina. Wake Technical Community College is teaming up with Raleigh café A Place at the Table to provide free, non-degree, short-term culinary and baking classes at the café.

The six-to-eight-week courses lead to industry certifications and will be offered in the evenings, Monday through Thursday — times when the cafe is not open for customers. Wake Tech will waive the registration fee for fall 2021, to support the local hospitality industry in its post-pandemic recovery.

“We know that our restaurants were hit especially hard during the pandemic and we want to rally around them in their comeback,” Wake Tech President Scott Ralls said. “We appreciate Maggie Kane opening the kitchens of A Place at the Table for our classes, which will help bring more skilled workers into the hospitality industry.”

Stepping up

The announcement was made June 15 at A Place at the Table, Raleigh’s first pay-what-you-can café. Diners can pay the suggested price, pay a minimum of $3, volunteer for their meal, or use a meal token distributed by local non-profits. The café expanded last summer with the addition of a new full-service commercial kitchen.

Throughout the pandemic, A Place at the Table gave away thousands of free meals, including more than 15,000 meals in the first three months alone.

“The pandemic was wild for us, but our team is awesome and held strong!” said Maggie Kane, executive director and founder of A Place at the Table. “We are so excited about our partnership with Wake Tech and can’t wait to meet these awesome culinary students.”  

The first classes will start in August.  

Students who complete a culinary or baking certification course at A Place at the Table and go on to work for a Wake County hospitality employer for six months will be eligible for a special scholarship valued at $3,000. It will allow the scholarship recipient to continue their education in Wake Tech’s culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, or hospitality management degree programs.

Wake Tech also plans to offer individual specialty cooking classes at A Place at the Table during the day on Mondays, when the restaurant is typically closed. These classes will feature guest chefs providing instruction on gourmet and international cuisine.

About the Author

Laurie Clowers
is vice president of communications and marketing at Wake Technical Community College in North Carolina.