Dining to Make a Difference

Sometimes, dining out can make a difference, and not just because a restaurant is offering to give a certain percentage of its profits to charity. Zest 280, a lunch-only, mission-based restaurant in West Hartford, has teamed up with Hartford-based Community Partners in Action on a Culinary Training Collaborative, which helps prepare former prisoners for careers in the culinary arts and hospitality fields. Not 5% or 10%, but 100% of Zest 280’s profits go back into the training program, and in June 26% of sales go the program.

Participants in the program spend ten paid weeks in structured, on-the-job culinary training while working at Zest 280. Trainees gain experience in both the back and front operations of the restaurant.

Besides having lunch at Zest 280, you can support the program by donating to the “Run Louis Run” fundraiser. Louis Lista, owner of Zest 280, is running his sixth marathon this fall to raise an additional $60,000 for the Culinary Training Program.

There is also a culinary pre-training program at Hartford’s Billings Forge Community Works, which is looking for volunteers for its farmers’ market, youth and community based programs, and fundraising events.

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