I had the opportunity to sit down with Richard Grausman, a man who owns many hats. He is an author, culinary educator and founding father of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). Grausman was honored on C-CAP’s 30th Anniversary on Tuesday, February 25 at Chelsea Piers in New York City for his tireless work to empower underserved youth through the culinary arts.
C-CAP provides a holistic and integrated approach to employment for young people and young adults through job and life skills training, internships and job opportunities, mentoring and industry connections, college and career guidance, and scholarships, together with product and equipment donations to high-school partners schools across the country. Co-chaired by chef Marcus SamuelssonC-CAP partners with 150 public high schools to support 15,000 students across the country every year to develop their interests and skills for careers in the culinary and hospitality industry.
Grausman has expanded this program to many cities across the country and will continue to serve large numbers of highschool students delivering life-changing results for years to come.
OR: Congratulations to you on the 30thth C-CAP Alert and honored for your work. We also heard that Sarabeth Levine, restaurateur, baker, and owner of Sarabeth’s are also being honored for their work, so congratulations to her too. Can you take us back to how you started the organization?
RG: I have been teaching French cooking for Le Cordon Bleu de Paris for 15 years and left to write my book, At Home With French Classics now sold as French Classics Made Easy. During my 15-city book tour, I noticed that the American diet is based on hamburgers, pizza, and fried chicken and that I wanted to expand my options. I also found it hard to change adult habits and knew if I was to have influence I needed to get into school.
That brings me to the NYC Board of Education. I proposed that I teach their Home Economics teachers recipes from my book so their students would become acquainted with French food. They liked the idea but had no money. After visiting the lecture rooms and knowing that they really needed money and help, I started doing it.
After visiting several schools, I noticed that the students in the class were students who failed the school system. All of them have bad grades and don’t have any idea what they will do if and when they graduate. It was then that I shifted my focus to finding careers for the students in this school’s program. Hence the name of our organization, Careers through (school culinary arts program.) It’s not apparent to most yet, but it really describes the nature of our work.
OR: How many students have you served through this program?
RG: Around 200,000.
OR: What does the student program consist of?
RG: In addition to what they learn in the classroom, we provide class visits to restaurants, hotels, food service amenities and the like, so students can see a number of workplaces. We offer shadowing opportunities so they can get an idea of what a job in the industry is like. We conduct summer job training and place students in paid internships. We offer college and career guidance. We are holding a culinary competition with the chance to win a scholarship for tuition help. We help teachers improve their culinary skills and knowledge.
OR: What cities does C-CAP serve?
RG: New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Arizona and Los Angeles. (Until this year, we also had a program in the Hampton Roads VA area.)
OR: What is your favourite success story because I’m sure there are numerous?
RG: I have two and cannot make a choice from them. Amar Santana, is a New York student whose parents emigrated from Santo Domingo. An academically poor student who landed in one of our Home Economics classes with an excellent teacher who saw potential. In his freshman year, I noticed him in our competition and gave him and his teacher a one-week, full-budget trip to London to attend a Cordon Bleu school. He came back and applied himself in his senior year. Her grades still weren’t good enough to win one of our academic scholarships, but we got her an Elizabeth Grausman scholarship to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where she excelled. I helped him intern with Charlie Palmer at Aureole’s restaurant. Amar worked at the same restaurant when he graduated from the CIA. Periodically, he would tell me that he left Aureole because there was no chance for him to advance. I will tell him to talk to Charlie. After each meeting there’s a promotion. A few years later, he became Charlie Palmer’s Executive Chef at Charlie Palmer’s restaurant in Orange County, CA. While working there he made a name for himself and after a few years opened his first restaurant, Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach. After several years of success, he opened his next restaurant in Costa Mesa, called Vaca. This year he just opened his third concept, The Hall Global Eatery also at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
Carlton McCoy, grew up in Anacostia, D.C., one of Washington’s worst neighborhoods. Raised by his grandmother, I found Carlton in our competition at Anacostia High School. When I asked Carlton what he wanted to do with life, he said he wanted to be a doctor or a chef. I find that interesting because my father is a doctor and that I am a chef. I asked him what his SAT score was and told him to become a chef. We sent him to the CIA where he excelled. I arranged an internship at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown and he was asked to come back after graduation. Carlton chose to work in New York for Thomas Keller at his restaurant Per Se, where he worked the front of house. He was recruited to help open the Mandarin Hotel in DC and worked there for several years, building on his passion for wine that started at the CIA. Long story short, she took my advice, to The Little Nell in Aspen and within a few years, became the second and youngest African-American Master Sommelier in the world. Soon after he became Wine Director of The Little Nell and this year was hired as President & CEO or Heitz Cellar in Napa.
Both Amar and Carlton have achieved success at levels I could never have dreamed of.
OR: How did you involve Marcus Sammuelson in the organization?
RG: I met Marcus shortly after he was appointed Executive Chef at Aquavit Restaurant. I instantly saw his potential as a mentor to our students and asked for his support. Marcus volunteered for us as a judge at our competition, hiring and advising our students for several years and we became friends. I all the time knew Marcus would make an excellent lead for our program and asked him to join our board, where he’s now Co-Chairman.
OR: What is Team Zagat’s role with C-CAP?
RG: My dad was Tim’s dad’s counselor at summer camp. We grew up in NYC, but we never really got to know one another. While I was studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, I met Nina Zagat who had come to take classes at the school. He sat next to me a few times and we started talking. He invited me to a party for Sargent Shriver at the Eifel Tower where I met Tim. We became fast friends and they were frequent guests at my apartment in Paris. We also went to restaurants together and he started writing reviews about those restaurants. Back in NY, he started writing his guide to restaurants and that I helped by sharing it with people who attended classes I taught for Le Cordon Bleu. When I started C-CAP, Tim was very successful with his Zagat Guide and when I needed a board to run a nonprofit I asked him to be a founding member. The rest is history…
OR: You have 30th The Birthday Celebration is coming up on Tuesday, 25 February 2020 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers. What does this confession mean to you?
RG: It’s an acknowledgment of the work I’ve done for 30 years and is the peak of my career.
OR: What makes this show different from the others?
RG: My whole family will play a part. My wife Susan who is my guiding light, is in command of the event, my brother Philip designed the C-CAP Bean Award, my nephew David and his Trio will provide the score, my daughter Jennifer, who directed the Emmy nominated film PRESSURE The COOKER and a few of the cast members will be there and my daughter Deborah, the voice of the Sesame Street character Smartie, will be there together with some of the show’s members. That makes it a really special night for me.
OR: How did the team get to choose restaurants or are they mainly repetitive?
RG: Most of the cooks have been mentors to our students over the years and we all the time invite the best cooks in town. Two of the cooks are alumni.
OR: Going forward, what can we expect from C-CAP in the future?
RG: My hope is to see more alumni move up the ladder and we should expand our Apprenticeship Program to help even more students than we currently do.
OR: What would you say to your 8 year old self?
RG: Work hard, believe in your ability to learn whatever it’s you want to do and find a job you enjoy!
OR: How do our readers buy tickets?
RG: They can visit our website: https://ccapinc.org/events/c-cap-annual-benefit-2020/
Feel free to socialize and interact with us:
OR: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me and we look forward to seeing you at the big celebration.
RG: It’s my pleasure and that I hope to see you there.