"Michael Rantz was living at the Manatee Veterans Village when he heard about job training at USF Sarasota-Manatee's Culinary Innovation Lab in Lakewood Ranch.
Collin Mapps was employed at a Goodwill store but wanted a higher-paying job to finance his dreams of college.
And Stephanie Smiggen, after years of bouncing from one job to the next, longed for a career to inspire her for years, maybe even decades.
The three are veterans, but that's not the only thread that binds them. They've also struggled at times with housing and employment issues. Now they're hoping to turn their lives around through a USFSM-supported program called Vets2Chefs.
Under the program, Rantz, Mapps, Smiggen and three other veterans are learning about life in a professional kitchen: organization and cleanliness; knife skills; the nuances of sautéing, braising and roasting; how to master soups, sauces and hot and cold appetizers, as a well as a host of other cuisines and skills.
The 12-week program doesn't require out-of-pocket expenses from the veterans and comes with a job at a restaurant. Founder Bryan Jacobs, a one-time chef to the Busch family of Anheuser-Busch fame, sees one other important contribution by the program: "It gives them something to focus on to help them find their passion, purpose and craft."
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