C-CAP chef-mentors volunteer their time, spending five hours each week with students at their schools’ culinary labs. “We practiced forever on carrots,” Jeanine says. “I have learned that I should control the knife, and not let it control me.” She doesn’t yet own a set of knives, so her Roosevelt culinary instructor, chef Frederick R. Monroe, let her borrow his for the finals.
Few people can speak to the victories, and misfires, in public school food and nutrition curriculums as authoritatively as Grausman, a native New Yorker mildly astonished to look in the mirror and see a man in his mid-70s staring back. Inspired after attending James Beard’s small cooking classes in the early 1960s and having reinvented himself at age 28 by graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, he followed the path of chef instructor rather than restaurant chef.
The famous school sent him to spread the gospel of classic French technique in America, its flame having faded decades after Julia Child. For 15 years he conducted demos and workshops in department stores nationwide, including Woodward & Lothrop in the Washington area.
Then Grausman aimed at New York’s inner-city schools, where he thought his expertise could make a difference. “I tried to get educators to zero in on teaching skills that were marketable,” he says.
The French connection remains evident today, as C-CAP students must tourne, or turn and trim, vegetables; line a ring mold with even, translucent slices of cucumber; reduce stocks to glazes; build sauces; and produce paper-thin crepes in competitions like the one in which Jeanine and her classmates shined so brightly. She remembers, beaming, that “Mr. Grausman said he loved my crepes” at the March 25 finals, held in Rosslyn at The Art Institute of Washington. Besides her big win that day, 11 other C-CAP students took home more than $153,000 in scholarships and cash awards.
Before Jeanine heads for Denver in August, a new C-CAP job training program will place her in a professional kitchen somewhere in the Washington area. She’ll probably run into a C-CAP alum or two, as many have found their way as cooks and beverage directors. Anacostia High School (’02) and C-CAP/CIA grad Carlton McCoy, 27, worked as assistant sommelier at Cityzen and beverage manager at Sou’Wester in the Mandarin Oriental from 2007 to 2010; now he’s at the Little Nell resort in Aspen, Colo., where he was just named that area’s top new sommelier. He has been invited to take the master sommelier exam this month.
“I was raised by my grandmother. For me, this was the one opportunity I had to go to college,” McCoy says. “I consider Richard Grausman a lifelong mentor. None of this would have been possible without C-CAP.”
Lately, C-CAP mentions have popped up on TV. Grads have taken home top honors on Food Network shows “Chopped: Champions” and “Sweet Genius.” Last weekend, Red Rooster chef-restaurateur and C-CAP board member Marcus Samuelsson earned a final berth on this Sunday’s “Chopped: All-Stars,” where he could win $50,000 for the program. Founder Grausman says he hopes that such high-profile acknowledgments will help with the constant challenge of fundraising to support the nonprofit program.
Jeanine can hardly wait for the next part of her life to begin. Until then, she’ll continue to help cook family meals and repurpose leftovers into lunches for her boyfriend. Her mother volunteered that last bit of information during a cooking session at The Post, and her daughter’s all-business demeanor at the cutting board was interrupted by a sly smile.
“He likes to eat,” she says. “And making food for people makes me happy.”
C-CAP fundraiser June 1
The Careers through Culinary Arts Program for the District and Prince George’s County will hold a fundraising social June 1, 5-8 p.m., at Bobby Van’s Grill, 1201 New York Ave. NW. $20; light hors d’oeuvres, raffle drawings and live music. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit program, which promotes and provides food-service career opportunities for underserved youth through culinary arts education.
To find out more about becoming a C-CAP sponsor, contact C-CAP at 212-974-7111 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Strawberry Spinach Salad
Sun-Dried Tomato Chicken Alfredo
Jeanine Williams and Richard Grausman will join today’s Free Range chat at noon: live.washingtonpost.com.