Community Kitchen Pittsburgh Beefs Up Its Curriculum With A New Butchery Program
Hazelwood's nonprofit culinary training center runs a Friday Fish Fry through April 7 and plans to add a food truck this year.
On Fridays during the Lenten season, Hazelwood’s Community Kitchen Pittsburgh expects to sell between 800 and 1,000 pieces of fish.
Each sandwich or platter that goes out reels in funds to help keep the nonprofit culinary training center afloat. Through April 7, you can grab a Friday feast (including a craft beer from soon-to-open Hazel Grove Brewing) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 107 Flowers Ave.
If you’ve got a beef with seafood, Community Kitchen, or CKP, recently launched a butchery program to train the next generation of meat cutters and keep local carnivores happy.
In 2021, the organization partnered with Unified Fields, a Pittsburgh-based collective of artisan butchers offering training, consulting, mobile slaughter and meat processing, to start a butchery course.
Since then, CKP has received a USDA grant to open a dedicated processing facility on the third floor and sell grass-fed beef, pork and lamb products at Bloom Café, the retail storefront. The eatery uses scratch ingredients to make everything from pastries to burgers. Run by graduate Joe Joint, it operates for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Look for breakfast hours soon.
Unified Fields sources animals from a number of local producers, including Pittsburgher Highland Farm in Mt. Pleasant. CKP students break down the meat into retail cuts and ground products such as patties and sausages.
Since age 18, principal trainer Ben Buchanan has been committed to locally sourced, sustainable farming and humane processing while teaching others his craft.
“It’s fulfilling to be feeding people, educating people and giving more people access to good food,” he says.
All students take a 16-hour butchery course to learn about the different equipment used — from knives to bandsaws — to cuts of meat.
“One thing we are moving into this year is more customizable, non-diploma training opportunities so that people don’t have to do the full diploma program if they want to just take a specific course, or focus on a specific track,” says Jennifer Flanagan, CKP executive director.
Since launching in 2013, the employment-based social enterprise has had two missions: hunger relief and job training through various programs.
The target population includes people who are overcoming adversity or experiencing barriers to employment or to advancement. Individuals can apply through the program office or attend a monthly open house, fill out an intake application and chat with CKP staff. There are four professional chefs who all participate in culinary training, and three program staff who focus on job readiness skills and supportive services.
“We identify their barriers and concerns and create a training and service plan for each incoming student that will include supportive services, referrals and other wraparound assistance, in addition to culinary training,” Flanagan says.
There are 11 people enrolled in the 12-week culinary diploma program, with another cohort of eight slated to start their training at the beginning of March. Five people enrolled in CKP’s Department of Labor Apprenticeship program and one seeking transition employment. All participants are paid while enrolled. Classes are held weekdays from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Since the pandemic, CKP has deepened its ties with partner employers committed to employee retention, opening career pathways, paying good wages and offering other workplace benefits. With the growth of Hazelwood Green, there’s been an uptick in the catering and cafe business.
CKP is adding a mobile element to its mission: a food truck.
The as-yet-unnamed vehicle will hit the road this spring or summer serving a student-developed menu of American fare, similar to the kind served at Bloom Cafe. The unit will be equipped with taps so it can serve Hazel Grove beers during events throughout the city.
In addition to being a teaching tool, the food truck will expand CKP’s reach beyond Hazelwood, its home base since 2018.
During the pandemic, it went into community service mode — and never stopped.
Through its Community Meals Program, the facility distributes 2,000 meals a day to shelters, schools, elderly care centers, nonprofits and low-income/food-insecure families throughout Allegheny County.
“We’re on track to prepare and serve about 450,000 meals this fiscal year,” Flanagan says. “And of course, we integrate this production into our training, so it’s really a win-win, with students learning the trade while giving back to the community.”