COAST MENTAL HEALTH
CULINARY 101 CAMPS
The Culinary 101 Camp is a three-day workshop that is perfect for young adults who experience barriers to accessing employment and have a passion for cooking.
Participants of the Camp gain experience, practice job readiness, and make connections with Social Crust Café and Catering, which could lead to an opportunity for a paid work placement in a supportive environment.
Now’s your chance to explore the culinary arts.
When: Sessions run Tuesday to Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Date options below).
Where: Pacific Coast Apartments 337 West Pender Street Vancouver
What you will learn:
Knife skills & basic cuts
How to work in a kitchen team
Common job readiness skills and employment requirements
Passion and interest in food
Experience barriers in accessing employment
Currently between the ages of 18-30 years old
Ability to commit to a 3-day class.
Included in each session: A recipe package, notebook, pens, and all the food we make.
(Please note: Participants may only attend one session.)
August 22 - 24
September 12 - 14
September 26 - 28
October 10 - 12
November 14 - 16
November 28 - 30
December 12 - 13
Spaces are limited – Apply today!
Please submit a Culinary 101 Camp Application to Margaret.Flynn@coastmentalhealth.com, or drop off an application in person at the Social Crust Café between 8:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Applicants will be contacted 1 week prior to their desired camp date for a meet and greet with our Chefs.
"I have a combo of high anxiety and a learning disability. I really enjoy working here and feel very supported by everyone.”
“It gave me community, independence and confidence. Specifically the confidence to act. I use to worry all the time about what could go wrong, now I say to myself just go for it! I have stronger connections with my friends and I initiated a weekly Sunday hike with them. I am excited about school. I use to think school was tiring, now I see it as untapped potential”
Gwen arrived from Kazakhstan in the summer of 2022, She struggled to find work due to lack of opportunity.
Gwen is now our Lead Prep Cook in the café. She shares her appreciation for the opportunity, saying: “This program gave me new life”.
ZOE LANDS A JOB THROUGH THE CULINARY 101 CAMP
Zoe first heard of Coast Mental Health’s Young Adult program while in tertiary care at Vancouver General Hospital. The recreational therapist there recommended the program to her, and she started going while still in the hospital.
“Attending groups and having people to talk to, that’s been a good support,” she says.
Zoe explains that being able to be open about her mental health with others has been helpful.
Zoe has been attending the Young Adults program since March, and now lives at one of Coast’s community homes nearby.
Thanks to the generosity of donors, the Young Adult Program provides opportunities for life skills development, employment and education exploration, recreational activities, socialization and community engagement for young adults. Most importantly, it offers a space for them to be themselves without the stigma and discrimination often associated with mental illness.
Finding ways to access training you need
At the Culinary 101 Camp, Zoe learned basic cooking skills and techniques, like knife cuts and plating. Participants made everything from cookies to soups to focaccia during the three-day session, giving her more self-confidence in the kitchen.
The employment skills program is funded by generous supporters and provides youth recovering from mental illness or with other barriers to employment with training, coaching, and work experience to help them enter the labour force or continue further culinary schooling.
As part of the culinary training program at Coast, Zoe was given a one-month work experience contract with the Social Crust Café. Three days in, they decided to hire her on a permanent, part-time basis.
“You learn as you go,” she says. “My favorite part about working here is learning new things…, like how to mix properly and combine ingredients for cookies so they come out soft.”
Zoe does a mix of different jobs at the Café, from dishwashing to prep work to packaging orders for the catering side of the business. She’s learned a lot so far and looks forward to learning more.
“It teaches you time management. For making meals at home, it’s a lot easier to get things done. You learn to do it faster.”
Zoe looks back on her time in the Culinary 101 Camp fondly.
“It was really fun. We learn a lot in a short period of time. I would definitely recommend it. If you can make the three days’ work, why not? Plus,” she adds, “you get to keep the stuff you make, so that’s a bonus.”
If you choose to stop off at the Social Crust Café, Zoe recommends the veggie wraps. “They’re really good.”
MARCUS AND HIS FAMILY: LEARNING TO TRUST THE RECOVERY PROCESS
In 2017, Marcus thought he was like every other boy at school. “You could say that I was on top of the world,” he says. “I had just lost forty pounds, and was going to meet with graphic designers and artists to start up YouTube businesses and things like that.”
Along with the successes, Marcus was also experiencing a lack of sleep and stressors in other areas of his life. “I believe the term is hypomanic,” says Marcus, but he didn’t know that at the time. The culmination of events led to Marcus having his first manic episode.
Getting the diagnosis
Marcus, who lives at home with his mom and dad, was met at home one day by the RCMP, who recognized Marcus was having severe problems with his mental health. They advised Marcus’ dad, Christopher, that he take Marcus to the hospital. Marcus eventually agreed.
Marcus and his family were completely in the dark as to what his condition might be. His mom, who was in New York visiting her daughter at the time of the episode, describes how helpless she felt. “When you have a child, you think you can take everything away from them. Make everything better for them. And you’re just helpless.” After asking herself questions — what didn’t I do right? How can I help him? — she realized a need to step back. “There’s a point where you want to take full responsibility, but then there’s a point where you have to let go as well,” she says. “You have to let them find their way.”
Marcus was eventually diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. “He was in the hospital for three weeks and one day” says mom, slightly smiling. “Not that I was counting or anything.”
The Culinary Skills Training Program
Marcus was enrolled into the B.C. Early Psychosis Intervention Program (EPI), where he was offered several opportunities. “That journey took me and my family through a lot of learning and a lot of growth,” says Marcus. It was through EPI that Marcus was introduced to the Culinary Skills Training Program at Coast Mental Health. The program, made available through the generosity of donors, offers youth between ages 19 – 30 who are recovering from mental illness, or who experience barriers to training, coaching and work experience so they can pursue further education or a career in the culinary field.
Participants are paid throughout the four month program, where they work with Red Seal chefs in a professional kitchen environment to equip themselves with both culinary and essential life skills, such as communication and problem solving. “I don’t think there’s been another period in my life where I’ve worked on myself more,” says Marcus. “And I couldn’t have done that without the support from my parents and Coast Mental Health.”
For Marcus, even the daily SkyTrain commute was an essential part of his recovery. The program takes place at the Social Crust Café, a Coast Mental Health social enterprise in Downtown Vancouver. “After something so traumatic happens, that kind of train ride with its really nice view in the morning, the sun coming up, was part of the therapeutic experience for me,” says Marcus.
The program, which runs Monday through Friday, gives participants structure in their sometimes chaotic lives. “Now I’m a morning person and I can’t shake that,” says Marcus. “That structure is there and it’s thanks to this program.”
Before the Culinary Skills Training Program, Marcus was a fan of The Chef Show and Action Bronson’s online cooking show. Every weekend, Marcus and his family would host the ‘Big Breakfast’. “There would be Spanish scrambled eggs, baked beans, sausages, toast — the whole deal,” says Marcus. He wanted to learn to cook for his ‘passion project’ and to help with his YouTube business ambitions. When he heard about the Culinary Skills Training Program, he hoped it would be a great fit. “I had a blast,” says Marcus. “It’s a really fun experience that I’ll never forget.”
A journey of trust and communication
Communication with his family has been a central part of the family’s journey towards recovery. “We’re very blessed with Marcus that he follows through on his medication,” says dad. “And he’s gotten really good at communicating whether he’s not slept well at night. And so what can we do?” By giving his family the heads up, they feel more able to help, be patient, and adapt to his needs.
“It’s definitely a learned process, reinforced by the Culinary Program,” says Marcus. Communication is an essential skill in any professional kitchen, but Marcus says he also built trust among his support team and peers. “Whatever struggles you may have, whatever recipe you may be doing, you can talk to them,” he says. “So that trust is there.”
Marcus’ parents have also had to learn to trust the process of recovery. “There’s been a lot of navigation, in figuring out how everything is going to be okay in the end,” says mom. “And even if it isn’t, we’re still all going to be together and strong.”
Once a week, clients taking part in the Culinary Skills Training Program focus on life skills. Marcus would meet with a social worker and an essential skills teacher to discuss school and career options. It was during these meetings that Marcus discussed his passion for the culinary world and building media for YouTube around food. He enrolled into Communications at Simon Fraser University, where he is still studying, and is considering enrolling onto a course at Vancouver Film School once he’s finished.
For Marcus, it’s important for him to talk about mental health.
“If you talk to anyone, you’ll find that they’ve come into contact with someone that has had a mental health issue,” says Marcus. “And I want them to know you can live an extraordinary and fulfilling life and have meaningful relationships, and have a wonderful career.”
Marcus acknowledges the love and support he receives from his family puts him in a place of privilege, but wants people to know there are resources ready to offer support, like the Culinary Skills Training Program at Coast Mental Health.