January 12, 2023

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

Recent graduates include student fleeing war in Ukraine

Ottawa, ON – Today The Ottawa Mission celebrated the graduation of 12 students of its renowned Food Services Training Program (FSTP) trained at “Chef Ric’s”, the shelter’s social enterprise at 384 Rideau Street.

Since its inception in 2004, almost 90% of FSTP graduates have found employment in the food service industry. Of the 12 students graduating this week, 10 have secured positions in the industry (84%). Chef Ric’s continues to support their search for employment and is confident that they will be working soon.

One of these graduates is Tetiana. An accountant from Ukraine, she fled with her husband after her home city of Mariupol fell to Russian forces. After arriving in Canada, she was accepted into the FSTP. Her husband was offered a job at The Mission’s kitchen, and the shelter found them a free apartment and provided furniture and housewares to make it a true home. Since English is not her first language, Tetiana has found the FTSP “challenging”. But, as she notes, “it’s an amazing opportunity to start a new life in Canada. It means a lot to me. It’s so hard to organize a new life. If not for the help of The Mission, we couldn’t do anything. We were like little birds who had fallen out of our nest. Without The Mission and our host, it would have been impossible.” Tetiana is now a proud and happy employee at Chef Ric’s.

Another graduate is Panah, who is originally from Iran and came to Canada in 2022 after working as a translator in Turkey for refugee support. When she arrived in Canada six months ago, she knew no English, but was supported by Chef Ric’s to learn the language after being accepted into the FSTP. Chef Ric’s also helped Panah find work placements fulltime at the Well, a day program for women and children run by St. John the Evangelist Church and also part-time at Cornerstone Housing for Women. “I want to be independent in Canada. Thank you to everyone at the Ottawa Mission and at Chef Ric’s who have helped me to make a new life here in Canada. I could not have done it without you.

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, 238 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 slowly emerges from the pandemic and also continues to deal with many forces buffeting our community such as inflation and related hunger, The Ottawa Mission anticipates that it 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, primary care, 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