Meet the Interns

CHEF-IN-TRAINING STORIES

  • Overview

  • Adrian

  • Bobby

  • Christina

  • Thunder

CHEF-IN-TRAINING PROFILES

Tobias Caracter
Generously Sponsored By: Ellen and Bob Ansel
Age, at time of internship: 19
CIT Intern: 2017
Restaurant Host: Mission Pie
Wraparound Program: Old Skool Cafe
“There are two words that sum me up well: ruling and power. I want to be in charge of everything: of food, of the kitchen, of the restaurant – all of it”
Tobias’s Story: With his parents divorced while he was young, Tobias never felt like he had a place to call home. With no relationship with his father and minimal contact with his mother, he has always hopped between relative’s homes. School was a particular challenge for Tobias, who loathed the structure and “prison-like” obligations of exams and credits. More recently, he has struggled with financial and health issues after being hit by a car in San Francisco. He broke both wrists and now faces over 2K in debt as he struggles to pay the ambulance bill.
Future Goals: Tobias is fascinated by the hotel and restaurant industry. His goal is to overcome his shyness, build up leadership skills, and develop his talent in the culinary arts so that one day he can manage a well-known restaurant/ hotel.

Georgia Cameron
Generously Sponsored By: Miranda Lux
Age, at time of internship: 16
CIT Intern: 2017
Restaurant Host: Pappo
Wraparound Program: Castlemont High
Favorite Dish: Grilled Peaches
This was the first opportunity I had to get a taste of what working in a real kitchen is like. The kitchen is where I want to be.”
Georgia’s Story: After her dad passed away when she was young, Georgia and her single-mother had to support each other. They connected through cooking the recipes her auntie sent them – especially cornbread!
Proudest Moment: When she was able to run the meat station by herself and have a blast! She also enjoyed experimenting with flavors with her mentor Chef Troy, adding hot spices and chocolate to cookies.
Future Goals: To go to a culinary arts school to get a degree and make her way up to being a head chef, maybe one day owning her own soul-food restaurant!

Riawna Pope
Generously Sponsored By: Ellen and Bob Ansel
Age, at time of internship: 17
CIT Intern: 2017
Restaurant Host: PlaYT and Communite Table
Wraparound Program: Oakland High
“Chef Spike, along with everyone else in PlayT, were very kind and accepting teaching me that a kitchen environment is like a family.”
Riawna’s Story: After a bitter divorce divided her family, Riawna and her siblings were placed in a foster homes. Without any contact or financial help from her father, she was forced to take on odd jobs in order to support her mother. As a result, her focus in school went to the wayside and her relationship with her mother deteriorated. Despite the ups and downs of foster homes and making ends meet, she always found comfort in the moments she spent cooking and baking with her grandmother.
Proudest Moment: De-boning and cooking an entire chicken on her own.
Future Goals: Riawna thinks big! After she finishes her internship, she wants to pursue a culinary arts degree and work in the culinary industry until she can own her own restaurant!

Jaleila Blaettler
Generously Sponsored By: Wells Fargo Foundation
Age, at time of internship: 16
CIT Intern: 2017
Restaurant Host: Dobbs Ferry Restaurant
Wraparound Program: Old Skool Cafe
Favorite Dish: Pete’s Meatballs for Meatball Soup
Jaleila’s Story: Raised by her single-mother in governmental housing in SF, Jaleila found herself hanging out with the wrong crowd. She struggled with theft, drug use, and low performance at school. Although she was in and out of juvenile and probation camps, Jaleila realized that she had the potential to do much more with her life. She didn’t want to continue sneaking behind her mother’s back and breaking the law, so she made a commitment to give herself a shot at a better future by changing her group of friends and focusing on a future career in food–and she is doing just that! In the past year alone, she joined JobCorps, signed up with OldSkool Cafe, and applied for an internship at Sprouts.
Proudest Moment: Going out of her comfort zone from working at Old Skool to a real-life restaurant experience at Dobbs Ferry.
Future Goals: Wants to cook as a way to get herself through her schooling and one day be a registered nurse and use cooking and nutrition as tools to help her patients.

Hector Ugalde
Generously Sponsored By: San Francisco Foundation from Hoskin Family Giving Fund
Age, at time of internship: 17
CIT Intern: 2017
Restaurant Host: alaMar Restaurant and Bar
Wraparound Program: Oakland High
Favorite Dish: Wings and the Dominican Bowl
“Honestly, I just didn’t want to be a bum in the streets, and I wanted to work with my hands. I could never imagine myself in a suit-and-tie, office setting. I wanted to work with something everything needs – so I chose food.”
Hector’s Story: Immigrating to the US from Mexico when he was 3 years old and growing up in rougher parts of Oakland, he confesses to feeling stuck in an environment of crime and violence. He’s always turned to boxing and cooking to keep him focused. Cooking’s important to his entire family, so much that his mother supported them with her taco truck, where some of Hector’s first lessons on hard work came from.
Proudest Moment: Personally bringing out the food that he created to grateful diners that appreciate his art.
Future Goals: Hector’s eager to bring his cooking skills to the next level, while getting his degree at Laney College. He plans to cook and save up so that he can leave his neighborhood behind and travel the world, live abroad, and cook at restaurants and box to support himself.

Chris Lau
Generously Sponsored By: Miranda Lux
Age, at time of internship: 18
CIT Intern: 2017
Restaurant Host: Hillside Supper Club
Wraparound Program: Old Skool Cafe
Favorite Dish: Grilled NY Streak with Bordelaise Sauce
You can never go wrong with more experience. With this working environment, I can get better at my job, as a cook.”
Chris’s Story: After quietly washing dishes for 2 years at Old Skool Cafe, while dealing with personal anger management issues and watching his peers around him learning to cook, Chris wanted to do the same. He went home after work and asked his parents to teach him the cooking basics so he could prove to himself and other chefs that he was capable of more than just washing dishes.
Proudest Moment: When his mentor chef, Tony Ferrari, felt that he was ready to work on the cold line, and he did well.
Future Goals: He’s attending community college and wants to use cooking as a way to support himself as he finishes college. Chef Tony of Hillside Supper Club has offered Chris a part-time position!

Lalaina Williams
Generously Sponsored By: San Francisco Foundation from Hoskin Family Giving Fund
Age, at time of internship: 17
CIT Intern: 2016
Restaurant Host: Millennium
Wraparound Program: Castlemont High School
Walking into the kitchen every time to see smiling faces greet me was just such a plus to the already loving community I’ve made with Sprouts.”
Lalaina’s Story: Growing up in a family of 10 siblings, there was never a dull moment in the Williams’ household. With so many mouths to feed in a low-income household, she was expected to financially provide for herself, while also being responsible for watching over her younger siblings, nieces, and nephews. She first discovered her interest in cooking when she made breakfast for her big family every weekend.
Proudest Moment: Being able to cut King Trumpet mushrooms without them crumbling in her hands. And making vegan ice cream!
Future Goals: After interning at a vegan restaurant, Lalaina enrolled in an Urban Agroecology class at her school. Either as a cook or a farmer, she wants to continue to be a part of the farm-to-table movement!

Bobby Pennington
Generously Sponsored By: Beth and David Marks
Age, at time of internship: 17
CIT Intern: 2015
Restaurant Host: Pican
Wraparound Program: Rudsdale Continuation School
Favorite Dish: Crawfish mac n’ cheese!
“My first day as an intern was enlightening! I got to watch one of the chefs prepare plates and was astonished at how at professional looking he made them.”
Bobby’s Story: Bobby transferred to Rudsdale Continuation School after almost flunking out and hanging around with the wrong crowd. At Rudsdale, he had the opportunity to take a culinary class which sparked his curiosity to learn more.
Proudest Moment: The first day he worked at Pican! Everyone was welcoming and helpful, showing him the ropes as he learned where all the ingredients were stored in the kitchen.
Future Goals: Bobby is enrolled in the Restaurant Management and Culinary Arts Program at Laney! He is excited to learn more about pastry and also learn more about the business side of restaurants. He dreams of opening his own restaurant. It would feature all different types of foods – maybe it’ll be a buffet!

Christina Septien
Generously Sponsored By: Ansel Family Fund
Age, at time of internship: 17
CIT Intern: 2015
Restaurant Host: Boulevard
Wraparound Program: Ralph J Bunch Continuation School
Favorite Dish: If she had to choose… the risotto!
“Before this internship, I was a really shy person, but now I find it really easy to talk to strangers. I feel that working at Boulevard really helped me break through my shell!”
Christina’s Story: ​Christina grew up in an Oakland, in a neighborhood where, as she says, ‘You need to watch your back.’ At an early age, her father left the family, which instigated a long line of emotional and financial issues. When her brother had an unexpected child a few years later, Christina took a year off of school to help the family pay their rent and grocery bills.
Proudest Moment: The time she helped plate for the banquets, and when she got to prepare the Boulevards, the restaurant’s signature appetizers.
Future Goals: Plans to start working, using her new cooking skills to look for restaurant jobs! She wants to help out her mom and become more independent.

Mikey Quintana
Generously Sponsored By: Straus Family Creamery
Age, at time of Internship: 17
CIT Intern: Fall 2014
Restaurant Host: Nojo
Wraparound Program: MetWest High School
“Ive always been interested in food, and (with Sprouts) I get to be in a real restaurant and work with professionals.”
Mikey’s Story: Mikey began selling cocaine when he was just 8 years old and then, stealing cars. He struggled with smoking pot and performance at school. He skipped class whenever he could get away with it. After his mother fell ill and died, he resolved to turn things around for himself and “make her proud.” In addition to building his culinary skills, Chef Greg from Nojo and our team at Sprouts worked very closely with Mikey to help him develop the life skills needed to maintain a job in the real world. Battling the loss of his mother and deep-seated habits, he didn’t always have an easy time. But he worked incredibly hard and was able to successfully graduate from the program.
After Sprouts: Post-internship, Mikey was hired on at Nojo and then went on to cook at local restaurants in Oakland.
Check out Mikey’s story here!

Thunder Zachary
Generously Sponsored By: Bacon and Beer Festival
Age, at time of Internship: 18
CIT Intern: Fall 2014
Restaurant Host: 25 Lusk
Wraparound Program: First Place for Youth
“Honestly, the main challenge I’m dealing with is having one foot in the hood and having one foot on the legitimate side, but Chef Matthew gave me a chance.”
Thunder’s Story: Thunder applied to Sprouts CIT program after serving time for armed robbery. And while this wasn’t his first experience in jail, this time around he was ready to make some changes. He resolved to leave his old friends behind, and focus all of his energy on learning the skills he needed to get a real job on the “legitimate side”. At first, Thunder struggled with attendance and respecting the rules, but after 4 months, he had progressed so quickly that Chef Dolan hired him on. Thunder’s story is truly inspiring.

Asmae Hamidi
Generously Sponsored By: Bacon and Beer Festival
Age, at time of Internship: 16
CIT Intern: Fall 2014
Restaurant Host: Delfina
Wraparound Program: San Francisco Conservation Corps
“I love learning. I am full of vitality. Kindness is my real strength. I want to be self sufficient, to not rely on other people but to know how to do things by myself and live my daily adult life easily.”
Asmae’s Story: Asmae immigrated from Morocco as a young teen, and spent her first year in the US struggling to make ends meet and sometimes finding herself without a bed at night. Over time, she was able to find stable housing and enrolled herself in basic vocational training and language classes through government-sponsored programs. She was determined to build an opportunity and decided to apply for the CIT program so that she would be able to use her passion for food to create a stable job for herself. She had no formal experience cooking and yet found herself excelling under the tutelage of her mentor chef, Anthony Strong.
After Sprouts: “I hope to practice everything I learned from the culinary program in my daily adult life. Also, I’d love to be a well known chef!”

Dartre Green
Generously Sponsored By: American Endowment Foundation
Age, at time of Internship: 17
CIT Intern: 2014
Restaurant Host: Flora
Wraparound Program: First Place for Youth
“Becoming a chef appeals to me because I have an extreme passion for cooking.”
Dartre’s Story: Growing up in Oakland, Dartre and his brother suffered unspeakable family trauma when he was a child and was removed from his home. But Dartre is a fighter. He has always been compassionate, a good communicator, and open to new cultures and people – those traits gave him the strength he needed to dream big. He impressed his team during his internship at Flora, and continued on to finish his studies and cook.
Future Goals: “I have wanted to be a chef since I was a child and I have always said that I want people from all over the world to be able to taste the good food that I make.”

Kika Eller
Generously Sponsored By: Jenni Shideler
Age, at time of internship: 16
CIT Intern: Spring 2013
Restaurant Host: Pizzaiolo
“Everyday in the kitchen I learned something new. I had great teachers and an amazing space to learn in.”
Kika’s Story: Kika grew up in Oakland in a low-income neighborhood. Without a father figure in her life, her and her mother were on their own, struggling, resorting to food stamps and government aide. As her mother had trouble keeping a stable job, Kika found herself dependant on an abusive relationship. She had always been interested in cooking, as it was a way to stretch her food stamps, and decided to pursue her interest in food by applying for Sprouts Chef-in-Training Program.
After Sprouts: Kika was hired on at Farley’s Cafe right after graduation, staying for over a year. She made the step up to a full-service restaurant when she joined the the team at AlaMar, a Sprouts’ partner restaurant. Kika continues to work as a chef at Grace Street Catering, and plans on continuing to develop herself as a professional chef.

Adrian Aguilar
Generously Sponsored By: Jonas Family Fund
Age, at time of internship: 19
CIT Intern: Spring 2013
Restaurant Host: The Boot and Shoe Service
Wraparound Program: MetWest High School
“Cooking is limited by your imagination.”
Adrian’s Story: Before Sprouts, he had been involved in gangs, drugs, organized crime, and armed robbery. Risk and violence was a part of his everyday life but, in June of 2013, it reached a breaking point. He was chased down and hit by a car, driven by two opposing gang members. That evening in the hospital, he promised himself to get out and start a new life for himself. He came to Sprouts with little restaurant experience but after 4 weeks of training at The Boot and Shoe restaurant in Oakland, he was already turning heads. Impressed by his desire to learn, we reached out to the community to raise funds for him to train for two weeks in Girona, Spain alongside a Sprouts partner chef.
After Sprouts: Adrian refers to his trip to Spain as one of the most influential experiences of his life. He couldn’t be more grateful for the community’s donations to make his trip possible. He lives in the Bay Area, working as a chef at a local catering company and happily married with two children.
Check out Adrian’s story on moving on from his past gang life to his new life as a chef here!

Brandon Noble
Generously Sponsored By: Jonas Family Fund
Age, at time of internship: 18
CIT Intern: 2013
Restaurant Host: The Boot and Shoe Service
Favorite Dish: Pizza!
“When I started cooking, I smiled for the first time in a while”
Brandon’s Story: Brandon’s health issues prevented him from having any sort of normal childhood. He was unable to attend much of his earlier school days or develop friendships with his peers. As a result of these immune system complications, he missed out on much of his earlier years of schooling, and couldn’t play with other kids. Battling crippling depression, he struggled to find purpose or joy in his life. As her explains it, he was never truly happy until he started cooking, which gave him freedom to do what he wanted to do, letting his ‘mind roam freely.’ After graduating from Sprouts Chef-In-Training Program, Brandon was hired at Evergreen Lodge in Yosemite. He loves his work there, learning something new every day!
Future Goals: “Every day I tell myself 4 things: I will own a chain of restaurants, I’ll be a great man, I’ll be the wealthiest person in the world. My hard work will pay off. This is whatI believe will put me on the path to doing those things.

Chris Hey
Generously Sponsored By: Jenni Shideler
Age, at time of internship: 17
CIT Intern: Spring 2012
Restaurant Host: Locanda
Favorite Dish: Trippa alla Romana, Poached Tripe
Chris’s Story: Growing up in Concord, Chris got involved in a gang and got wrapped up in a world of drugs and petty crime. He knew this wasn’t the life he wanted for himself, and started to develop a love for cooking at home. He approached several restaurants in town, but was refused for his lack of experience. Realizing that he needed an “in,” Chris applied for Sprouts Chef-in-Training program.
Proudest Moment: After starting out on the pasta station, extruding “miles” of homemade pasta sheets, Chris was thrilled to have the opportunity to learn and work the hot line. Although he considers it one of the most physically challenging positions, he loved being visible to the diners and feel the energy of the busy restaurant service.
After Sprouts: He was immediately hired on full-time at Locanda, where he continued to learn and develop his culinary and leadership skills. A year later, he had the opportunity to move to Portland to work for St. Jacks as a prep cook. Chris plans to spend time cooking in LA, and eventually build up a network of contacts and skills to be an executive chef one day.

Charles Johnson
Generously Sponsored By: Max Ghenis
Age, at time of internship: 16
CIT Intern: Spring 2012
Restaurant Host: Pizzaiolo
I want to learn from actual restaurant chefs that can teach me the ins of the culinary world and what it’s all about.
Charles’ Story: Charles was not only one of the first Chef-in-Training interns we brought on, but he was also one of the very first Sprouts campers. He was brought on as a scholarship child to our first session of camp in 2006, immediately standing out for his enthusiasm for cooking. Year after year, Charles attended camps, events and classes until he was old enough to apply for our Chef-in-Training Program. Charles grew up without a father figure in his life, and learned independence quite quickly as a result of the long hours his mother worked trying to support their family. He often cooked dinner on his own, and prepared her a plate for when she got home.
After Sprouts: He’s attending nursing school and cooking at a pizza restaurant to help him pay for school! He plans on teaching patients the direct impact that cooking healthy meals has on your health. He’s managed to use cooking and healthy eating not only as a pillar to his life, but as a key to a sustainable, impactful and fulfilling career.

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