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Culinary job-training program angling to open cafe in Mount Vernon Triangle

Cohn's Kitchen, a culinary job-training program for at-risk 18-24 year-olds, may open a training facility and cafe in Mount Vernon Triangle.

The academy signed a letter of intent in October of last year to take 3200 square feet at 802 and 804 N St NW, on the north end of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. "There we will put a training kitchen...and there will be a retail component where everything the students make...will be sold in a cafe and bakery/restaurant," says Elizabeth Scott, cofounder of Cohn's Kitchen.

The other Cohn's cofounder is Paul Cohn, whose latest offering, Boss Shepherd's, should open in July.

Currently Cohn's Kitchen works out of the Ronald Reagan building, but is seeking a training kitchen of its own.

"We're...training the students to work in a kitchen, but also any aspect of a hospitality business--front of house, back of house," Scott says. "We are really focused on training to get folks into the job market. We need our own space in order to really grow like we want."

The job-training program takes motivated students--applicants need a high-school degree or GED, and the application process includes students writing an essay about their goals--and starts them from scratch. "We've had students that never knew tomatoes were green before they turned red. People who never saw squash before it was chopped, frozen or put in a can....we want our students to graduate and be able to open their own place, or to go to work for a chef who's won awards and really have an opportunity to improve their lives."

But the cafe. If all goes well (Cohn's Kitchen is still negotiating the lease), the academy at the convention center will also have a public-facing component. "Obviously it will have to be overseen by someone on our staff," says Scott, "but the goal of it is, the students will run the cafe. One will be the manager, one will be a head chef." The menu will vary based on that season's curriculum. It will have a sit-down component but also provide cafe fare like coffee, sandwiches and pastries.

Should the initiative succeed, it will bring life--and foot traffic--to a side of the convention center that is currently a fairly blank facade.

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is the managing editor of Elevation D.C. She also covers tech, business and science for publications nationwide. She lives in Brookland.
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