Culinary Art

Mexico City Partnership // Update

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As some of you may know, Open Gate has spread its wings internationally and has partnered up with some amazing organizations that are continuing to change lives all over the globe. One of these partnerships includes SAHL + Uno.

About SAHL + Uno

They are a vocational and educational training program for adult survivors of human trafficking and sexual exploitation located in Mexico City, MX. Since there are very limited resources in Mexico that help reintegrate adult survivors of trafficking, it makes it difficult for these individuals to find employment. SAHL + Uno recognized this need and created a program that teaches women a variety of culinary skills that helps transition them into successful employment.

UPDATE: SAHL + Uno has officially graduated their first generation of students and is planning to extend their program being providing entrepreneurship training to one of their students who is looking to start her own business in her hometown.

Our graduate took the skills that she learned during her time in the program and began to make a variety of baked goods. She took these treats to her friends, family, and neighbors to sample in hopes that they’ll recognize her baking skills and will support her in her new business venture.

With the money that she made from selling her baked goods, she was able to purchase some of the appropriate equipment needed to pursue her passion for baking. Some additional equipment was also donated by individuals in support of her dream.

The two student’s in the video below are planning on launching some “Kitchen Do’s & Don’ts” videos on social media that will revolve around food safety & hygiene.
Please see their trial video regarding hygiene.

TRANSLATION
1st Lady: “She has her nails painted.”
2nd Lady: “Oh yes, it is not right to cook with your nails painted because the paint can fall into the food and it is not right. I will go ahead and remove the nail polish.”

Youth Culinary Training and Prevention Program in Antonesti, Moldova

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What an exciting day!

A week before Christmas, the first graduating class of the Youth CulinaryTraining Program in Antonesti Moldova came to the capital city of Chisinau for a celebration. Their trainers, Diana and Olga, brought the girls on the 2-hour journey into the city. We met upat Smokehouse, an American-style barbeque restaurant that graciously accepted our request totake a kitchen tour and talk to their chef and manager, all while eating some great (and culturally interesting) food.

One of the owners of Smokehouse was there to greet the girls and give them a very important talk. He discussed doing business in Moldova without corruption, going after dreams, and working hard with complete integrity. He also introduced the newest chef and restaurantmanager – a woman! She took the girls through her kitchen. What a great example of awoman, at age 21, doing something professionally that she loved. She shared her thoughts about work and that it should be something a person is passionate about. She encouraged thegirls to study something that truly interests them, set goals, and go after them!

Indeed – girls and women are heroes.

The group, after eating a table full of barbeque, decided to do some ice skating in the city’s center. Smiles, hugs, and heaps of gratitude were shared as they prepared for their trip back tothe village – after some hot chocolate of course.

The girls were so determined to stay in contact with their trainers that they signed up to do the Technovation Challenge and are now beginning a second semester in the program, learning tocreate an application for cell phones that helps to solve a problem in their community. These ladies can cook and now they are learning to code for change! There is truly nothing they cannot do!


The next 6 culinary students began their cooking journey in February. More on their progressto come this Spring.

To learn more about the worldwide Technovation Challenge, please visit: https://technovationchallenge.org.

A big thank you to the ladies and gentlemen over at Smokehouse in Chisinau!

CEO & Founder Deidre Pujols Visits Moldova

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Recently, Open Gate International Founder and CEO Deidre Pujols visited her team and partners on the ground in Moldova. Her visit was perfectly timed, as the first major culinary project officially launched this Fall 2017.

Here is OGI Moldova President Anatol Malancea and Open Gate International Founder and CEO Deidre Pujols standing in front of the “open gate” of the church and new culinary project in the village of Antonesti.

OGI helped a local village church turn a formerly unused garage space into a fully functioning training kitchen. Now, the space is being used to train young women ages 12 to 14 in the culinary arts along with life skills mentorship and community building. The space will also function as an instruction facility for girls from the local school in the culinary arts. The village school previously had no functioning space for such a class, so when the principal heard about the new kitchen, they approached the project for collaboration.

Inside the newly renovated property of the culinary project in the village of Antonesti. This was formerly a storage garage.

Young women in the afterschool program meet for class 3 times per week for the entire semester (September to December – a new class will begin February to May). Classes have an excellent student to teacher ratio of 3 to 1, allowing for ample individualized instruction and quality mentorship time spent together. While the program centers around cooking, the primary goal is mentorship and the building up of self-esteem within each girl – together on the journey to “find their hero within.” Opportunities for personal growth and development are few and far between in the village. The prospect of a career or following dreams outside of the country are often accompanied by substantial physical safety risks. The majority of human trafficking victims in Moldova are from the rural areas where other opportunities are sparse and domestic violence rates are high.

TOP LEFT – Picture of the new student uniforms with OGI logo. 1st Class TOP RIGHT – Picture of the first 6 girls in the program. Class BOTTOM CENTER – Picture of the first 6 girls with Diana and Olga and Deidre.

Some of the girls and Deidre eating birthday cake that was made especially for Deidre’s birthday.

Warmth, friendship, strength, smiles, and singing emanated from the space, the teachers, and the girls.

Open Gate International exists for opportunities such as these, and we aren’t stopping here. From this culinary project, a scholarship program is being launched, encouraging young people from rural regions of Moldova not only to continue their studies, but to return to their villages to begin new endeavors creating opportunities for their families and communities.

More on this new scholarship program to come!

Culinary Arts Program Update

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As we head into the home stretch of our 2nd session, the students of Open Gate International’s Culinary Arts Program are gearing up for their graduation. Week six transitions into the sweet elements of the program and everyone looks forward to it. Our students will be learning pastry, cakes, custards and cookies. All of the culinary elements at the graduation ceremony are prepared by our students.

We have ten students in this session and each of them has not only identified where they would like to work in the culinary field, but we have already set up interviews at those restaurants and some have already been hired.

Even though none of our current students knew each other prior to enrolling in our program, they have cultivated a close friendship and are actively making plans to stay connected after graduation. Each student is encouraged to create their own Legacy Team; a group of three or four people committed to encouraging the student and holding them accountable to stay focused on their goals. Some of our students have grown so close, they have asked to be on each other’s Legacy Team. It’s truly remarkable to see the transformation of each of their lives taking place every week.

Recently, one of our students was asked to share her story at an Open Gate International event. Even though she was nervous, she knew she was surrounded by her support team at OGI and she did a great job. What a privilege it is for us to be entrusted with the life of someone who has suffered so much. She is truly an inspiration to all of us. She knows her future is bright and her dreams that she once thought were impossible are now actually within her grasp.

Chef Brent and Judy are also actively maintaining a mentorship role in the lives of the graduates from our first session. Four of the seven are employed full time and are taking steps towards financial independence. One of the graduates who initially came to us in a homeless situation has gone on to get his driver’s license, a reliable vehicle and just moved into a new apartment. He has never been so happy and fulfilled in his entire life and credits his relationship with us and his overall experience at Open Gate International’s Culinary Arts Program as the reason for the smile on his face each day. His life has truly been completely transformed and he is on his way to a bright future.

Chef Brent and Judy are consistently looking for ways to improve each class and the overall experience as a whole for the students. They have introduced new technology for this session by way of Keynote presentations during the life skills/mentorship portion and the review at the end of each class. The students are responding with overwhelming positivity and expressing that the addition of the visual aids is helping them to retain the information even better.