PARMA, Ohio — After holding job titles such as sous chef, executive chef and general manager over the years, Parma resident Patrick McCune is proud of his career’s latest title — West Side Catholic Center culinary arts instructor.
“Right before I came here, I was the general manager for the Cuyahoga County Justice Center, where I operated all of their food service and venue opportunities,” said McCune, who recently celebrated his one-year anniversary with the West Side Catholic Center.
“I was looking for something different when I came across a job posting for a culinary arts instructor.”
In addition to assisting with food, clothing, shelter, advocacy and a path to self-sufficiency, the West Side Catholic Center’s Culinary Academy provides a bridge to employment for people experiencing recent incarceration, drug and alcohol issues, or homelessness.
“They tried to start the program during the last two-and-a-half years, but couldn’t get the curriculum tied in together with the facilities,” McCune said. “So I created a curriculum and got the program going.
“We’ve had five eight-week courses, and we’re currently entering our sixth class.”
Graduating top of his class with an associate’s degree focused in culinary arts/chef training from the Pennsylvania Institute of Culinary Arts, McCune worked his way up from humble beginnings in the kitchen as a dish machine operator, prep cook, line cook and kitchen manager.
His love of food stems from growing up in a military household that moved all over the East Coast. Often on their own, McCune and his siblings had to cook for themselves.
That turned into a love affair with food preparation, which the chef now hopes to pass along to his students.
“In the program, we focus on practical kitchen skills and culinary knowledge,” McCune said. “The students get a serve-safe certificate if they pass the exam. And then I use my 35-plus years of experience here in the Cleveland area to get them into internships for that eighth week, which acts like an extended job application and interview.
“They get to know the facility. The general managers and chefs get to know the individual. What we hope for is at the end of that week, they’re offered full-time or part-time employment, whatever fits into their life. So far, it’s been working great.”
Over the last year, the program has placed graduates in the West Side Catholic Center’s Ohio City Pizzeria, as well as with the Compass Group, Hyde Park Restaurant Group, Green Rooster Farms and Fahrenheit.
“These guys and gals are doing great,” McCune said.
As far as taking his culinary skills in a different and highly rewarding direction, McCune is also doing great, proudly giving back to the community.
“I’m over the moon happy with the results,” McCune said. “These adults — ages 18 to 80 — are the ones who put their effort into the program. They’ve really changed their lives.
“It feels good to take my skills, meet folks where they are and give them some of my knowledge to hopefully send them on their way to some great employment opportunities.”
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