New Hatch Culinary Lab at OC Fair & Event Center provides free training for young chefs

COSTA MESA (Feb. 28, 2018) – A new cutting-edge cooking academy has opened at OC Fair & Event Center to empower underserved youth through free culinary education and mentorship. A commercial kitchen on the fairgrounds has been transformed into Hatch Culinary Lab.

The new education program is a partnership between OC Fair & Event Center (OCFEC), CulinaryLab Cooking School, Anaheim’s Innovative Mentorship Experience program (AIME) and Spectra, the Fair’s master concessionaire.

OCFEC has invested an initial $54,000 in equivalent value in this community program that this year will provide up to 50 students with training in everything from knife skills, cookery basics and making healthy meals to safety and sanitation. The spring session started Feb. 28 with the first 20 students from Kennedy, Savanna and Western high schools working for eight weeks. A summer internship program and fall certification series will follow, culminating in an event to feed the local homeless community.

“We have an opportunity to change the lives of students through Hatch Culinary Lab and it is important for us to step in to help,” said OCFEC CEO Kathy Kramer. “Here at the OC Fair we love food, so this program is close to our hearts and ties in perfectly with our community give-back mission. I look forward to growing this program to include training for both kitchen staff and front-of-the-house positions.”

The team from CulinaryLab in Tustin is donating staff and time to the program and has created new curriculum tailored to provide students with the basics on how food works, healthy cooking skills and simple recipes they can practice at home with minimal cost and prep time. The goal is to excite students about cooking and food service and empower them to be confident individuals ready to secure employment.

“At CulinaryLab, we do everything we can to immerse students in the world of cooking with experimentation, tons of repetitive hands-on practice, and by involving local chef partners in the teaching process,” said Chef Ryan Wagner. “The goal of the Hatch program is to bring that same high-level culinary education to high school students who might otherwise not have access to it.”

The OCFEC commercial kitchen has been revamped from a solely commercial facility to a fully equipped teaching kitchen with additional cooking stations, appliances, storage, tables and cookware. The approx. 6,500 sq. ft. facility is operated by Spectra and manager Juan Quintero says the company will also donate kitchen labor, such as dishwashers, to support the program.

“The Spectra team is excited to be part of this community education program. This is really a win-win situation for us,” said Quintero. “Not only do we get to work with the student chefs and see their transformation, but we want to hire program graduates to work at the OC Fair doing kitchen prep and cooking for special events.”

Students from Anaheim Unified School District’s AIME program have been selected to participate in the first Hatch Culinary Lab sessions. More than 70 percent of AIME students come from economically challenged backgrounds and spend their time outside of school assisting their families, either at home or by working. The program will provide transportation and additional supervision for Hatch students.

There are plans for the program to expand through partnerships with Costa Mesa and Santa Ana school districts to serve up to 80 students annually. Wagner estimated that students will gain up to $20,000 worth of culinary education through the Hatch program and he is seeking to secure restaurant partners to help further students’ training.

About CulinaryLab Cooking School
CulinaryLab is a forward-focused cooking school where timeless techniques meet cutting-edge curriculum and real-world training to cook up bold, contemporary cuisine. CulinaryLab seeks to reinvent culinary training with programs that harnesses the power of today’s innovations to train tomorrow’s culinary arts and management visionaries. CulinaryLab is the first school of its kind that combines community-built curriculum, tech-savvy training, hands-on learning and a 1,000-hour apprenticeship in high level local restaurants.

CulinaryLab’s Chef Ryan Wagner is a Certified Executive Chef with 23 years of food and beverage experience, including running restaurant kitchens, high-profile event catering and various leadership roles in culinary education.

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About AIME
AIME’s mission is to partner with businesses and community organizations to provide students in the Anaheim Union High School District with mentoring experiences that will enhance their college, career, and life-readiness skills, as well as build lasting connections within the community.​​ AIME, a comprehensive mentorship program that also includes opportunities for paid summer internships, holds the promise of transforming the lives of our students as they prepare for the demands of college and career and make connections in the community.

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About Spectra
Spectra by Comcast Spectacor is an industry leader in hosting and entertainment, partnering with clients to create memorable experiences for millions of visitors every year. Spectra’s unmatched blend of integrated services delivers incremental value for clients through several primary areas of expertise: Venue Management, Food Services & Hospitality, and Partnerships.

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About OC Fair & Event Center
OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa is home to the annual OC Fair. Year-round attractions include Centennial Farm, Table of Dignity, Heroes Hall and Pacific Amphitheatre. Throughout the year events ranging from recreation shows to cultural festivals are held at the fairgrounds.