The Westside Works Culinary Academy—which provides free culinary training to west side residents in hopes of creating employment opportunities—is expanding. In the past, Westside Works employed select graduates at West Nest, a Mercedes-Benz Stadium food stall on the 300 level. Starting tomorrow, West Nest will have second location at section 115, with a portion of the proceeds from both stalls benefiting the training program.
The Westside Works graduates who work at West Nest implement menu changes, cook, and manage the food stalls. This year, the menus feature maple buffalo wings, a country-fried chicken sandwich with jalapeno-apple slaw and bacon jam on brioche, and straight-cut natural fries with house-made dipping sauce.
“People come into the program with little expectations about their skill set, and graduate with the most passion I’ve ever seen,” says Latisha Rodgers, culinary instructor and program operating manager for Westside Works. “I’m giving these people hope that they can come into this industry and be successful.”
In the past couple of years, the program was shortened from eight weeks to six, yet graduates still achieve their food management certification and learn knife skills, protein fabrication (such as how to break down a 22-pound Atlantic salmon), baking, culinary math, and more.
Despite program pauses due to the pandemic, from late 2019 to December 2020 Westside Works graduated 23 students and achieved 100 percent placement in places like the Pig and the Pearl, JCT Kitchen, and Proof of the Pudding. Approximately half of the graduates go on to work at West Nest or Westside Works’ “fan-friendly” food truck at Mercedes-Benz. Wages start at $13.50 per hour.
Westside Works has other tracks for those who aren’t culinarians. Nearly 500 west side residents worked on the construction of the stadium, and more than 800 are employed in some function of it.
For more information, visit westsideworks.org, or support the nonprofit by visiting West Nest at the next Atlanta Falcons or Atlanta United game.