Feb. 20, 2020 -- Columbus Alternative High School senior Andre Smith gained a love for cooking when he was eight years old.
“I used to always see my dad cook and he would tell me to get out of the kitchen, this was in the third grade. When he wasn’t home I used to ask my mom [if I could] make eggs,” said Andre Smith.
Andre has now gone from cooking eggs to cooking gourmet meals in the culinary program at Columbus Downtown High School.
“I am basically a baker,” Andre says. “I classify myself as that. Baking, your imagination can go from anywhere to everywhere. You can do so much.”
The Career Cafe doesn’t just teach students how to cook, but also life lessons.
“The main thing that I try to teach the kids is how to be better people, not so much how to become a chef,” said instructor Anthony Ruffin. “I worked for the Department of Corrections for a long time. I retired from the state, and I just didn’t feel like I had ever made a difference. So I decided to look into teaching, so I could make a difference in kids' lives. I’m glad I did, I wish I would have done this 20 years ago.”
Students learn through the ProStart curriculum developed by the National Restaurant Association. ProStart is the restaurant and food service industry’s leading career-building program for high school students interested in culinary arts and food service management.
Students are able to earn Industry certification, as well as college credit.
Because of the program, students like Andre want to create opportunities for students where they can too share the same passion for cooking as he does.
“I bring kids from my culinary program and we go cook at different places and hold a Thanksgiving dinner every year,” said Andre.
Andre created Dre-Dre’s Foundation, using the skills he learned from Columbus City Schools culinary program, on how to run a successful business and spread love through cooking.
Andre says he wants to major in the juvenile justice system in college, while providing at-risk-youth an opportunity to succeed through the culinary arts through his foundation.
“To give youth the chance to find their passion,” said Andre.
“I’ve had a lot of kids that I’ve stayed in contact with that have gone on to be chefs. I know some kids that went on to do other things, managers of restaurants, managers of auto-parts. I can see the impact that I had, this is a great school and a lot of the teachers impact these kids' lives positively. Whether they go into culinary arts or law enforcement, I want them to be positive members of society,” said Ruffin.