May 09, 2024

Food Services Training Program graduate students to new careers and lives

Ottawa, ON – Today The Ottawa Mission celebrated the graduation of 26 students of its renowned Food Services Training Program (FSTP) trained at “Chef Ric’s”, the shelter’s social enterprise at 384 Rideau Street.

One of these graduates is Raven Spade, an Ojibwe graduate who is class valedictorian. Originally from Whitesand First Nation north of Thunder Bay, she heard about the FSTP while staying at a women’s shelter in Ottawa. “I came to Ottawa with 3 kids and only 3 bags. I was starting from scratch,” she notes.

One of Raven’s course highlights was preparing Indigenous cuisine for the Mission’s Country Food Feast. Cooking for the Indigenous community is especially meaningful and also one of her culinary career goals. In fact, she’s now cooking for Larga Baffin, a local medical boarding home for those traveling from Nunavut for medical services. “I am looking for something Indigenous-specific. I’ve also really enjoyed my practical experience at both Chef Ric’s and The Mission, so I would also be happy to work in either kitchen.”

Raven appreciated not only the training she received with the FSTP, but the program’s flexibility. “I’m a single mom. I don’t think other programs would allow me to work my schedule around caring for my daughter, but the FSTP did.” Raven is also thankful for the stability that the FSTP has provided her. “I’m now housed, and thankful to be on this path to substantial employment. My goal is to have stable income as I raise my kids. I’ve been given the opportunity to find stability for my children and for that, I’m so thankful.”

2024 marks the 20th anniversary since the inception of the FSTP, and this cohort is the 40th graduation ceremony for the program. Since that time, the program has graduated 360 students, almost 90% of whom have found employment in the food service industry. The program was created by Chef Ric Allen-Watson, The Mission’s Director of Food Services. Homeless at age 14, he knows the power of paying it forward. “I started this program to help other people in need. After 20 years, I couldn’t be happier that we’ve helped and continue to help so many people in our community who need support.”

As Ottawa continues to deal with chronically high inflation, hunger, poverty and homelessness, The Mission will remain the first place of refuge for increasing numbers of vulnerable people for the next several years. “At Chef Ric’s, we’re doing our part to help even more people in need by helping people graduate to new lives,” 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 2022-2023, The Ottawa Mission provided emergency shelter to an average of 177 men every night and served an average of 2,898 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 a new housing department.

Aileen Leo
Director of Communications
T 613.234.1144 x 305
C: 613.712.3092