Jeanine lives with her parents and three siblings in a two-bedroom apartment in Anacostia, where views of a better life can be easily obstructed.
“This has given me a brighter future,” says the reserved 17-year-old with short dreadlocks and a sweet, round face, who admits that “it never occurred in my teenage mind that I would have to have money for an education.” She has benefited from the generous support of aunts, uncles and cousins as well as her parents, George Bateman Jr. and Nikisha Williams — particularly her mom, whose enthusiasm for matters of food and cooking should be bottled and sold.
Jeanine has had chef’s work in mind since age 12, but it took a well-established job training initiative to show her the way this year. Careers Through Culinary Arts Program, or C-CAP, has disbursed more than $34 million in scholarships and has taught more than 100,000 students since it began in 1990. C-CAP advisers operate in 176 high schools in seven jurisdictions across the country, including the District and Prince George’s County.
Just about every institution you’d expect to participate does — Le Cordon Bleu in North America, the Culinary Institute of America, the French Culinary Institute, the Art Institutes and New England Culinary Institute, among them — offering full or partial rides to students from low-income families. A-list restaurants, hotels and food-service companies sponsor C-CAP, donate products and provide internships: Red Rooster Harlem and Union Square Cafe in New York, Bobby Van’s Grill in the District, the Four Seasons Hotel, Marriott, Guittard Chocolate and many more.
“C-CAP is an unsung hero of the culinary industry,” says superstar chef-restaurateur and “Top Chef” judge Tom Colicchio, in an endorsement on the program’s 20th-year commemorative pamphlet. “I salute it for its current and future efforts to bring new talent into our field.”
Long before the students get to compete for prize money, however, they must embrace C-CAP founder and Chairman Richard Grausman’s “recipe for success”:
Show up on time.
Show interest and a desire to learn.
Know basic knife skills, safety and sanitation.
Don’t be afraid to use a mop.
His rules are simple, yet the failure to follow them is one of the two main reasons C-CAP in District and Prince George’s County high schools usually starts an academic session with 65 students and ends up with 14 or 15 who make it to the final competition each spring, according to Yvette Williams, a DC-PGC program coordinator along with her husband, chef Troy Williams. (Failure to maintain the minimum grade-point average of 2.7 is the other.) Jeanine kept a 3.5 GPA and showed a lot of determination and drive as well superb math skills, says Yvette Williams.