GREAT BARRINGTON -- The students of Railroad Street Youth Project's Culinary Arts Apprenticeship program put their cooking skills to a five-course test on Monday night at RSYP's seventh annual Fall Culinary Dinner held at Fiori restaurant in Great Barrington.

Participating teens selected and prepared the menu under the mentorship of Chef Brian Alberg of the Red Lion Inn and Dan Smith of John Andrews Restaurant, with the support of Zee Vassos of Firefly, Rachel Hunt of Fiori, and Jaime Paxton of the Meat Market.

The proceeds from the $125 per seat event benefit programs and activities at Railroad Street, which operates a drop-in center and runs a number of youth initiatives in the Great Barrington area.

The culinary arts program was conceived in 2006 as a way to allow youth from throughout southern Berkshire County to work with area chefs to gain professional culinary training. The series of eight weekly sessions ends with a community dinner overseen by guest chefs working with their apprentices to prepare gourmet meals for the public.

To date, more than 100 teens and young adults have participated in the program, leading many to go on to work in restaurants and pursue careers in this industry.

"Without the culinary program, I wouldn't have been prepared in the way I was to start my job. It gave me a beginning to work in a professional kitchen," said David Asaph, a Culinary Arts Apprenticeship program graduate who now works at Fiori.


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"But it is not just the job skills that are important ," said RSYP Executive Director Ananda Timpane. "Our young chefs also gain confidence and a strengthened sense of self-worth because of the relationships they develop."