Culinary arts apprentices cook up feast with local mentor chefs


GREAT BARRINGTON — It was the culmination of an exciting eight weeks.

Young cooks worked with big names on the local culinary scene to prepare Monday night's five-course meal at Crissey Farm, where the Railroad Street Youth Project held its Annual Culinary Arts Dinner and Awards ceremony. Money from the $125-per head dinner helps pay for the organization's youth development programs and activities.

The Culinary Arts Program is just one of Railroad Street's many mentoring and apprenticeship programs, in addition to the organization's job training program and drop-in center on Bridge Street — a downtown hub for young people to connect or get help.

Launched in 2006, the culinary program is legendary, having produced not only great cooks but a batch of chefs who have gone on to culinary schools and careers in the restaurant industry.

After deciding on a menu and preparing for the dinner in recent weeks, apprentices were guided at the event by local mentor chefs, including Brian Alberg of Main Street Hospitality Group, Marcos Gomes of the Red Lion Inn, and Dan Smith of John Andrews Restaurant.

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And there was a celebration as the Railroad Youth Student Empowerment scholarship award went to Kya Austin, 17, who attends Monument Mountain Regional High School.

Kya had applied for the $5,000 two-year scholarship for successfully finishing a program that includes financial and other skills needed to navigate post-high school options, including college. She now knows that she'll study psychology at Berkshire Community College.

"Kya has a great passion for helping others, and I know she is going to do great things," said Regina East, a board member and special projects coordinator at Railroad Street.

The dinner helps fund programs like this, and cultivates a love of food and cooking.

"This program brings me back to growing up and having fun with food," said chef Dan Smith, on his 12th year as a mentor. "Every participant is different, and we work with each young person to get the best out of them and keep them engaged."

Heather Bellow can be reached at or on Twitter @BE_hbellow and 413-329-6871.


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