Cook It Up!


One of the biggest employment opportunities in Haliburton County is in food services. However, the number of individuals who are employment-ready are dwindling (according to employers in the County, and Fleming Crew). Employers are left with the options of hiring employees from outside the county or hiring and firing a series of unready workers. One solution to this dilemma is to bring the skill and confidence levels of local “unready” potential employees to a point where they are ready and able to work.

SIRCH is passionate about reducing poverty and increasing community capacity. One of the ways we do this is to increase the skills, abilities and confidence of individuals who are struggling through hands-on training programs. One of them is “Cook It Up.”

Cook It Up is in its 4th season and has experienced phenomenal success! Since we started the program, we have had interest not only locally, but in other parts of Ontario and more recently from the UK.

Cook It Up provides on-the-job training and employment opportunities for 8-12 unemployed or underemployed adults annually, but it is done with some unique key elements that ensure its success:

1. A gratitude platform/philosophy that underpins the training
2. Partnering with restaurant owners to take over their restaurant on a day it is typically closed, and preparing, cooking and serving an upscale 3-course lunch (free to the public)
3. Promoting meaningful ongoing interaction between the trainees and the public.

8 – 10 individuals are chosen who are interested in learning about food service. SIRCH’s Food Services Coordinator, who is a chef, oversees the 16 week program, ensuring that all health and safety requirements are met. Guest chefs may be invited to participate.

Over the training period, trainees learn to:

• Plan a menu and shop for the ingredients necessary
• Scale recipes
• Clean and prepare food
• Write up a menu for guests
• Greet guests, maintain a positive atmosphere
• Wait tables
• Attractively plate food
• Provide exceptional customer service
• Clean up
• Freeze or package leftover food.

This year, Molly McInerney from Molly’s Bistro in Minden is partnering with SIRCH Community Services from March to May. Cook It Up takes over the restaurant on Mondays, when it is typically closed, and uses the kitchen, ovens, and restaurant to cook a 3-course lunch for the public. The lunch is SIRCH’s gift to the community – giving back because the public is helping the trainees gain skills and experience. If patrons feel the need, they are welcome to donate to “pay it forward” (e.g. help pay for someone else’s meal). We expect to feed 50 – 60 people each week.

Trainees not only get on-the-job training and employability skills, but gain exposure to potential employers who will be coming in for lunch. Over the past three Cook It Up training sessions, 72% (on average) of graduates have been hired following the training program. Trainees will also benefit from the philosophy of this pilot – learning to have gratitude, and to treat people as valued guests, listen to their stories, touch their lives.

Cook It Up is a win-win for everyone concerned! For more information contact

Week 1 (March 5, 2018)

Week 2 (March 12, 2018)

~ menu developed by trainee Sonya Patterson

Week 3 (March 19, 2018)

~ menu developed by trainee Thomas Marion