Little City, Twin Orchard cook up employment opportunities

The tablecloth was immaculate. The glass was set on the correct side of the plate. The forks were in perfect order. Jeff Aiken had set a table for a banquet.

But he did much more than set a table. He set himself up for new and exciting opportunities as part of the first-ever graduating class of the LifePath Culinary and Kitchen Arts Program.

On March 30, Aiken and seven other Little City participant trainees graduated from the 10-session, LifePath Culinary and Kitchen Arts Program. The training program, delivered by staff from Twin Orchard Country Club, provided both the education and opportunities for skill acquisition necessary for the participants to actively pursue jobs in the food service industry.

Sessions included topics such as kitchen safety, hygiene, table setting and even food prep. Whether it was nuanced details like learning to hold the glass by the stem or bigger tasks like learning to apply breading for fried chicken, Aiken said it was a valuable experience.

"I really liked the guys who taught the classes," he said. "They taught us things we need to know to work in a restaurant."

This pilot training program served as the "next step" in an ongoing partnership between Little City and the Greater Chicago Club Managers Association (GCCMA). It highlighted the unique job requirements of not only the private club industry but food service employment in general and provided learners with direct, one-on-one training and education from experts such as General Manager Gavin Speirs and Food & Beverage Director Ben Janssen from Twin Orchard Country Club.

The majority of the training took place in Little City's fully equipped hospitality training kitchen and dining room, but the final session took place in Twin Orchard's kitchen facilities, giving participants real-world experience in a live setting including prepping cocktail sausages and breaded chicken alongside professional cooks.

"The combination of a transformational environment such as the kitchen along with the expertise of the trainers, hands-on learning experiences and course materials adapted for the learning styles of the trainees, culminated in a truly rewarding experience that has resulted in immediate benefits and which will ultimately pay future dividends," said Casey Burke, Little City's Director of Employment and Day Services.

The class was also part of Little City's all-new Employment First program, which aims to help people with ALL disabilities - whether they are a Little City participant or not - find a job in the community. The graduates of the culinary program, which included one non-Little City participant, will be some of the first people to meet with the Employment First team.

The Employment First team will help the graduates determine how best to put to use their newly acquired knowledge and skills. Some will seek competitive community employment in local dining or service establishments and others will take a more active role in the meal preparation and dining experience in their own homes and continue training with Little City's Employee Development Services Program.

Little City would like to congratulate the entire culinary program graduating class: Jeff Aikin, Beth Welz, Christopher Keiser, Mital Desai, Howard Bynum, Karen Quandt, Simone Kilberts and Andy Arroyo!

If you or anyone you know has a physical or developmental disability and is looking for employment, you can contact the Employment First program at

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.