Inside the Box Café and Catering is a social enterprise of the Metropolitan Ministries, providing both vocational training and opportunities for work experience to the less fortunate.
Chef Cliff Barsi founded the culinary school program to help individuals transitioning out of homelessness and poverty learn their trade. The kitchen at Metropolitan Ministries is their classroom, and Inside the Box Café is their training ground.
“The reason we started Inside the Box Café is because I wanted a real life restaurant for them to work in,” Barsi said. “They go out to the cafés, they work on the line with the cooks there so they get that skill of urgency-something that you just don’t learn in a normal culinary school. Then, they go back to the kitchen and they do some practical cooking classes with our chef.”
The 16-week program is funded by JP Morgan Chase Bank. All students that are accepted into the program receive a full scholarship.
Eliu DeLeon is one of those students, preparing to graduate. DeLeon hopes to become a chef at a fine dining restaurant upon leaving Inside the Box.
“A lot of my peers that have already graduated have ended up in a lot of fine dining companies,” DeLeon said.
Chely Figueroa is the catering coordinator at Inside the Box. Before that, though, she had become homeless in 2009.
“I found myself walking 18 miles to this place here, Metropolitan Ministries, to find a safe haven,” Figueroa said.
Barsi called her one day, asking her to run the downtown storefront.
All proceeds from Inside the Box Café and Catering go directly back to Metropolitan Ministries to help others in need.