It’s more than just the delicious breakfasts and lunches that have been bringing people to Foodshed Pizza and Pasta, the Napa, California, restaurant that opened in an office park near the airport in July 2013: through a unique internship program, Foodshed gives low-income youth and at-risk and underserved populations hands-on experience in a commercial kitchen and restaurant that they can then translate into long-term jobs.
Chef and Founding Principal Giovanni Guerrera spent two years as sous chef at the Rome Sustainable Food Project. Returning home last year, Guerrera approached one-time business partner Sean Pramuk, with whom he’d run Napa’s successful Uva Trattoria; together with Michael Miguel (front of house) and Chef James Ehrlich (a former RSFP intern), they established Foodshed, whose name is a nod to their desire to serve locally produced food with an awareness of “conscious consumption.” But Guerrera also wanted to create a teaching kitchen and internship program similar to those at RSFP, so the four reached out to On the Move, a Napa County nonprofit that serves at-risk youth, to suggest a public/private partnership, with all restaurant profits going to the program.
The internships last three months; participants train for 20 hours weekly and are expected to take part in every aspect of the restaurant’s operation, including cooking, cleaning, serving, organizing inventory, and dealing with compost and recycling. With time, interns are allowed to focus on their own developing areas of interest, so eventually, one might be entirely responsible for completion of a dish—from prep work to plating—while another might choose to attend to customer service and its many nuances.
Prospective interns aren’t expected to have food industry experience and are selected largely based on background and interests, along with a genuine desire to overcome economic, social, and other issues. They’re paid California’s minimum wage—US$8.25 per hour—through grants from the Dean Witter and Miranda Lux foundations and the Napa-Lake Workforce Investment Board, given job placement assistance, and reimbursed for the cost of a legally mandated Food Handler Card.