By Kathy Chouteau
R&R Hospitality Academy is a new Richmond organization that helps prepare and certify low income young adults for careers in the hospitality industry, in part by tasking the program’s students with preparing free lunches for local seniors alongside their instructor.
A Grand Opening for the Academy is being held Wed., Oct. 12 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Richmond Senior Center, 2525 Macdonald Ave.
During the event, local seniors ages 55 and over are invited to stop by for a free lunch of baked chicken, collard greens and dirty rice prepared by the young adults participating in the Academy. Aside from lunch, the event will be “a meet and greet with myself, our students and seniors who decide to come out,” said Academy Founder Phillip Mitchell, a longtime Richmond businessman in the food industry. “Everybody will get to know who we are…what we’re doing, what our mission statement is and what our goals are.”
As part of a partnership with the City of Richmond, Mitchell and young adults ages 18-34 years old from the Academy will prepare ongoing free lunch for seniors Wednesdays and Thursdays. It’s a win-win for everyone involved—free lunch for the seniors and hands-on training for the students that “takes care of the community we’re in,” says Mitchell.
The Academy’s students are participating in a four-week course—also happening Wednesdays and Thursdays at the Richmond Senior Center—that will instruct up to 10 people per session on the ins-and-outs of hospitality careers.
“I tell you what, you get them in a restaurant setting and you’ll see people’s personalities take off.”
“I want to teach the next generation of restaurant executive kitchen managers, restaurant general managers, restaurant CEOs, from the ground floor up—from bussing tables, to washing dishes, to interacting with guests—how to analyze a P&L and to understand what it takes to interact with the community on an everyday basis in all different aspects,” said Mitchell.
The Academy’s founder said that, in addition to teaching students about P&L statements, he’ll also teach them about writing a schedule, managing a budget, food and labor cost management and meal preparation as he works beside them. “It’s a low-level intro to what it takes to run a restaurant,” said Mitchell, who said that the course will be 90 percent hands-on and 10 percent classroom work.
Students completing the course will earn a CA Food Handlers Card (ServSafe certification) in cleanliness standards and basic kitchen understanding after completing the course, said Mitchell. Students will also earn a certificate from the Academy itself, with the founder noting that “safety and sanitation” is part of what they teach.
Upon completing the course, students can receive resume help from Antoinette Evans, while Mitchell will connect them to some of his industry contacts for possible work opportunities. He said he’s confident he can get 90 percent of his students placed in jobs.
The Academy marks the culmination of Mitchell’s lifelong dream to give back to the community while helping young adults who come from underserved communities.
Mitchell said that “There’s a lot of young adults out there—black, brown, white kids—that are misunderstood. They have a ton of energy…and a lot of times there’s no place for them.” He added, “I tell you what, you get them in a restaurant setting and you’ll see people’s personalities take off.”
The Academy’s founder said that “he was one of the ones that was misunderstood,” where he played sports, attended college, did okay in school, but “was always looking for something different.” Eventually he got into the restaurant business and “everything good in my life has happened to me over the restaurant business I’ve made.” Mitchell shared that he’s not only earned a great living, but also enjoyed some of the best benefits available across all industries.” He also underscored that after working a restaurant shift, “you’re too tired to go out and get into any kind of trouble—you just want to go to sleep.”
Again, R&R Hospitality Academy’s Grand Opening is Wed., Oct. 12 at the Richmond Senior Center, 2525 Macdonald Ave. in Richmond. To apply for a spot in an Academy course, reach out online. The first three months of courses will be offered for free; from then on there will be a fee for attending. Questions? Contact Philip Mitchell at (628)269-7003 or [email protected].