Chef Jon Wirtis is Catholic Charities of Oregon’s new Executive Chef/Instructor. His two passions are food and people. Like Catholic Charities, Chef Jon believes food, the very thing that sustains our bodies, can also be the foundation for sustaining and transforming our local communities. One of Chef Jon’s main duties in his role as Executive Chef/Instructor is to oversee Germaine’s Kitchen and Café, the heart of Catholic Charities of Oregon’s Food Response Network and, as of this year, an innovative career coaching program.
Germaine’s is a familiar name at Catholic Charities of Oregon. In November 2019, we announced what was simply called Germaine’s Café. Today, the expanded Germaine’s Kitchen and Café offers a pathway out of poverty through foodservice and culinary training, soft skills development, and targeted employment services to those experiencing intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) and other unique barriers to employment, including rehabilitation after addiction or other life-changing and traumatic experiences.
Students enrolled in our culinary program will learn essential cooking skills, participate in a gluten-free training, and contribute meals to our Hot Meals for Unhoused Neighbors program in Southeast Portland. Ultimately, Germaine’s Kitchen and Café will help students develop basic cooking and social skills to help them find employment in a professional kitchen or food service operation. We anticipate opening applications for the first class by fall 2021.
At the café, Chef Jon will hire and train a staff of adults experiencing IDD and other unique barriers to employment while providing a one-of-a-kind customer service experience that aims to change the way communities view those with these unique barriers. The café at Germaine’s is still slated for its official public opening at our Clark Family Center in 2021.
Watch Chef Jon talk about all the exciting things coming up for Germaine’s Kitchen and Café:
Many vulnerable and marginalized communities experience increased anxiety around putting food on their tables, but at Catholic Charities of Oregon we believe food security is within reach. We are committed to improving the livelihood of individuals, families, and communities affected by IDD and work to build communities where everyone can thrive. The core of Germaine’s Kitchen and Café remains the same: To change the way people see, respect, value, accept, and include others. We are excited to have Chef Jon leading this project!