September 07, 2023

Food Services Training Program offers hope to students to rebuild their lives

Recent graduates include newcomers to Canada

Ottawa, ON – Today The Ottawa Mission celebrated the graduation of 24 students of its renowned Food Services Training Program (FSTP) trained at “Chef Ric’s”, the shelter’s social enterprise at 384 Rideau Street.

This graduation ceremony was dedicated to Chef Antonio Grande, a long-time and passionate volunteer FSTP instructor. Chef Toni passed away in June and the graduation ceremony is dedicated to his memory.

One of these graduates is Jean Chirac, a newcomer from Burundi. At age 26, he left his home last December to start anew in Ottawa. Facing uncertainty about his future, he discovered the FSTP and was accepted. “I love cooking and creating with food. I felt very fortunate to have found an opportunity like this.”

Jean Chirac excelled in the program and soon found himself employed at a local restaurant, showing tremendous work ethic balancing his work and his studies. While he had some cooking skills and experience to build on, he found the program’s resume writing and job application training to be particularly beneficial. He plans on using that training to pursue a culinary career with a social service agency.

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, 282 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 20 registrants.

As Ottawa continues to deal with a post-pandemic environment, including worsening mental health, addictions, homelessness, inflation, hunger and poverty, 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.

Myles Dingwall
Communications Officer