Daytona Beach, FL - Stewart-Marchman-
Reality House provides inmates nearing end of their sentence with substance abuse treatment, vocational training, and job placement assistance as they prepare to re-enter the community. Reality House includes 145 treatment beds and 28 work release beds.
Reality House’s culinary arts vocational curriculum was designed and is overseen by the University of Florida. Instruction is provided by Chef Kirk Kief, CC, CPC. Classroom elements include all educational components required for American Culinary Federation certification;
The culinary curriculum was designed to enable the students to become eligible for ACF certification. Some of these men have many years of restaurant experience prior to their incarceration while others had food service experience while in prison. Therefore Reality House has a number of students who met the work requirements for certification, but on exposure to the coursework also required for certification. Reality House provides the coursework necessary for pre-certification, assists students in the submission of certification packets, proctors the written and practical exams, and pays for ACF membership. Cheney Brothers, US Food Service, and the ACF Chefs and Cooks Association have all contributed funds to support our culinary program.
There are a number of obstacles to operating a culinary program in a correctional environment. First, the Department of Corrections had to grant permission and provide a waiver to conduct written exams since the exams require use of the internet, and inmates are prohibited from using the internet while incarcerated. Then there is an issue of using knives in the kitchen. They are normally bolted on stainless steel cables attached to the walls, and are not of the best quality. Special permission had to be obtained so that we could loan good knives to the inmates. The ACF evaluators also had to have background checks and clearance before being allowed on premises to evaluate the practical exams. And finally, there is the cost. It’s approximately $260 per person to certify so they are actively look for sponsorships and grants.
In spite of obstacles, the first candidates for certification at Reality House, Steve Galassi and James Fryman, took their Certified Culinarian practical exams on January 9, 2014 and both passed. Two weeks later, they made it through the written exam with scores in the mid to high 90’s. Then on February 28th, both were presented with their framed CC certificates at a House ceremony. They will leave Reality House with their ACF certification, self-pride, and the knowledge and skills to be on any kitchen team in the country. They also have the ACF as a network to help them find their way.
These certification matter, but for these men certification really matters. Both Steve and James will be free men soon, and both look to having successful careers in hospitality including achieving higher levels of ACF certification.
With continued support from Cheney Brothers, US Foods, the SMA Foundation, and other generous sponsors the program hopes to help at least eight other inmates become Certified Culinarians in the coming year.
SMA Behavioral Healthcare has been serving the northeast Florida community with mental health and drug treatment services for over 50 years. They operate 35 mental health and substance abuse programs, providing prevention, diversion, intervention, and treatment services, delivered to a diverse client population in a four-county region ( Flagler, Putnam, St. Johns, and Volusia). SMA’s St. Johns clinic provides outpatient mental health and addictions services to more than 1,000 residents annually.
SMA Behavioral Healthcare’s mission is to deliver exceptional and comprehensive behavioral healthcare to individuals and families in our community. Their vision is of a community where addiction and mental illness are treated promptly, comprehensively and with respect for all. They can be reached 800-539-4228 or online at http://www.smabehavioral.org/
Pictured L-R: Brian Conrad Assistant Director, Kirk Kief CC,CPC, Executive Chef/Culinary Instructor, Steven Galassi, James Fryman, David Bearl CCE,AAC Test Administrator, Scott Bennett CEC, Test Evaluator, Anthony Lowman CCE, Test Evaluator, John Kent CC, Floor Supervisor, Andrew Williams Director Criminal Justice Services.