Indian Pueblo Cultural Center partners with CNM for new Indigenous-focused cooking school

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center will be partnering with CNM to build a cooking school aimed at teaching important career skills to Indigenous chefs.

The program begins in 2022 and will teach ten Indigenous chefs each year with the hopes of getting a career in hospitality.

"CNM has been a great partner for us as they have a culinary program but what we’re really looking to do is to create five teaching stations and have two students per station," Indian Pueblo Cultural Center’s Beverlee McClure explained. "As a cooking teaching station, you need a place for them to do the prep work, as well as a stove and an oven, for them to be able to participate and be able to practice."

To pay for the costs of this need, the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center applied for a grant through Bank of America. The IPCC is one of 24 nonprofits that received funding to help their cause.

"We’ve given out around $572,000 to 24 different nonprofits," Bank of America NM’s Paul Mondragon said. "Last year, we gave out nearly $1.2 million in total support that includes employee support."

In 2021, the bank is expected to reach that number again.

"We’re mostly in the business of giving grants to people who are addressing hunger, housing, and economic mobility," Mondragon explained.

This new teaching kitchen will give prospective chefs the chance to not only train with some of the best, but also earn credit through CNM.

"We really feel like part of our mission is to create culturally appropriate educational opportunities," McClure explained, "and that’s exactly what this is going to be."

"It’s an opportunity to learn some techniques and learn about your culture and culturally-relevant foods," Chef Ray Naranjo said. "It definitely helped in my career."

Now, the chefs at the IPCC will be able to help future Indigenous chefs with their career.

"They’re very passionate about this and they’re very passionate about mentoring and creating others to follow in their footsteps," McClure said. "I think when we see where those chefs are placed, this really has the potential to have a national impact as these students graduate and move to be able to serve in restaurants of their own."

"When people start at a higher level, they’ll excel to a higher level," Chef Naranjo explained.

As the hospitality industry grows, there is a hope that there will be more national representation from Indigenous chefs.

"We feel like we’re a gateway to help with that," McClure said. "We feel like we’re a starting point to really start to make that change."

"There’s been so much trauma that it’s time to overcome that and figure out how we’re going to exist in these future spaces," Chef Naranjo said.