Community Kitchen’s fish fry trains students as it delights diners | Food | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

Community Kitchen’s fish fry trains students as it delights diners

click to enlarge In the kitchen at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh's fish fry on Fri., March 4, 2022 - CP PHOTO: PAM SMITH
CP Photo: Pam Smith
In the kitchen at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh's fish fry on Fri., March 4, 2022
On the morning of March 4, the first day of the fourth annual Community Kitchen fish fry, founder and executive director Jennifer Flanagan tells Pittsburgh City Paper they had received about five times more pre-orders than any previous year. Last year and the year before, Community Kitchen only offered curbside pick up, and although they still offer take-out this year, Flanagan says everyone is “super thrilled” to be back in-person.

Their fish fry menu features hand-battered haddock. “I know people are very particular about the kind of fish they get at their fish fries,” Flanagan says. “We do hand-battered fish, fresh cut fries. We make everything here that we can. We're making the cole slaw, we're making the haluski, we’re making our own tartar sauce. We're a culinary school, right? So why not do everything fresh?”
click to enlarge A volunteer wraps up an order at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh in Hazelwood. - CP PHOTO: PAM SMITH
CP Photo: Pam Smith
A volunteer wraps up an order at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh in Hazelwood.
Community Kitchen Pittsburgh is not just any culinary school, however. “We tend to support people who have barriers to employment or people who are looking to get back into the workforce,” Flanagan says. Their Hazelwood space offers paid training programs, transitional employment opportunities, apprenticeships, and job placement services to connect students to stable higher-than-entry-level jobs in the culinary industry. According to Community Kitchen Pittsburgh’s website, all programs are free of charge, and they pay their participants.

“Some of our folks are coming out of incarceration, some of them are transitioning out of homelessness,” Flanagan says. “We've had women coming out of domestic violence situations. We've also had high school dropouts. And then we've had people who just need to get back into the workforce. They want to switch careers. So we have a whole case management staff, and we do a lot of work around removing the barriers for people so that they can have successful employment.”


Flanagan says that, in addition to being their biggest annual fundraiser, the fish fry provides a valuable opportunity for students to learn and work in a more restaurant-like environment. “We don't have a lot of opportunities for our students to learn a la carte,” she says, “which is ticketed meals. You know, fast paced. This definitely gives them that experience, so it’s a really great training opportunity for our students.”

When they’re not frying up fish for sandwiches, Community Kitchen Pittsburgh students learn culinary skills by helping the organization produce about 2,000 meals each day.
click to enlarge A volunteer packages orders during Fish Fry Friday at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh in Hazelwood. - CP PHOTO: PAM SMITH
CP Photo: Pam Smith
A volunteer packages orders during Fish Fry Friday at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh in Hazelwood.
“Those meals are going to shelters or other nonprofits, child nutrition programs, basically food-insecure, low-income, vulnerable populations,” says Flanagan. “And so our students, they're learning their curriculum in the context of doing all those meals every day. They learn the trade by giving back to the community, which is a really nice full circle.”

Flanagan also wants diners to know that all tips and donations received at the fish fry go into their Student Assistance Fund, which supports students with emergent employment barriers. “That Student Assistance Fund is really critical in the kind of support that we can offer,” she says. “We've helped a woman leaving domestic violence get a new apartment, we've helped people get driver's licenses back, helping people with the things that come up for them that are going to impact their ability to get and keep a job.”
Fish Fries at Community Kitchen Pittsburgh. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Fridays through April 15. Pre-orders are encouraged. 107 Flowers Ave., Hazelwood. ckpgh.org/events/2022/3/4/fish-fry-friday or 412-246-4736

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