May 04, 2023

Food Services Training Program gives hope for students to rebuild their lives

Recent graduates include Mohawk elder who supports the Mission’s Country Food Feast

Ottawa, ON – Today The Ottawa Mission celebrated the graduation of 20 students of its renowned Food Services Training Program (FSTP) trained at “Chef Ric’s”, the shelter’s social enterprise at 384 Rideau Street.

Of the 20 students graduating this week, 19 have secured positions in the industry.

One of these graduates is Pauline, whose Mohawk name is Katsitsyaroroks. New to Ottawa, Pauline enrolled in the FSTP to get back on her feet. A teacher, artist, elder and grandmother from Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory, Pauline is a determined student with a big laugh.

As part of her FSTP curriculum, Pauline helps prepare, cook, and serve traditional Indigenous foods such as caribou, bannock, char and others during the Country Food Feast that The Mission hosts each month. First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people have a disproportionate burden of homelessness in Ottawa. Country foods can be hard to access in our community, and this meal is deeply meaningful to the First Nations, Metis, and Inuit people who come to The Mission for these special occasions. “It’s been wonderful to serve these meals. They know it’s their medicine food,” Pauline says.

Pauline combines her extensive knowledge of Mohawk food and culinary traditions with the FSTP’s valuable lessons on the business of food service. Her goal is to use what she’s learned and eventually return to Tyendinaga to build a business that nourishes her community through both traditional foods and cultural teachings. “The FSTP opens the door to help me give back. That’s all people need: love and full bellies.”

The FSTP was created in 2004 by Chef Ric Allen-Watson, The Mission’s Director of Food Services. Homeless at age 14, he knows the power of paying it forward. “Someone reached out to me and showed me that education could help. That’s why I started this program: to help other people rebuild their lives.”

Since 2004, 258 people have graduated from the program, almost 90% of whom have gone on to positions in the food services industry. In September 2021, operations for the FSTP were moved from The Ottawa Mission’s kitchen to Chef Ric’s to add more space and increase the capacity of the program. The next session of the FSTP began earlier this week and has 25 registrants.

As Ottawa continues to deal with many forces buffeting our community such as inflation, hunger, poverty and homelessness, The Mission will remain the first place of refuge for increasing numbers of vulnerable people going forward for the next several years. “By expanding this incredibly successful program at Chef Ric’s, we’re doing our part to help even more people in need,” Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley concluded.

About The Ottawa Mission
Since 1906, The Ottawa Mission has been serving those who are homeless, hungry and lost by providing food, clothing, shelter and skills. In 2021-2022, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 118 men every night and served an average of 2,570 meals every day.  The Ottawa Mission also provides to men and women health services, mental health and addiction treatment programs, hospice care, dental services, housing services, educational support, job training, spiritual care, and clothing to thousands in need in our community. In September 2020, The Ottawa Mission marked the one millionth hour that the shelter has been in existence since its founding in 1906. In 2019, the Mission became a housing-focused shelter reflective of its commitment to a home for everyone as a human right with the launch of its housing department. Visit to learn more.

Aileen Leo
Director of Communications
T 613.234.1144 x 305
C 613.712.3092