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March 17, 2009

Streets International Takes Kids from the Streets to the Kitchen

Kids in the Streets International
program will undergo the same
curriculum as students at New
York's Institute of Culinary
Education, above.


by Mollie Chen

Last week my colleague, Alex, and I had the chance to attend a benefit for a brand-new nonprofit with two noble goals: getting disadvantaged kids off the streets and feeding hungry travelers. Streets International is the brainchild of Dr. Neal F. Bermas, a long-time consultant who teaches courses in hospitality management and entrepreneurship at both New York University and the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE).

Bermas got the idea while traveling in Vietnam, where he saw a demand for tours and organizations with a philanthropic bent, and where he realized the power nonprofits can have to bridge the gap between locals and visitors. His idea expands on the model of organizations like Koto, a Hanoi-based group that teaches underprivileged kids to run restaurants.

The difference here is that because of Bermas's ties to ICE, kids will undergo the same training--and 18-month curriculum--as students at ICE's Manhattan campus. As they move through the program, they'll work in every area of the restaurant, from front-of-house duties to cooking to management. They'll also have a great support system with medical care, English lessons, and basic life skills courses. And when they're finished, the kids will graduate with certification that will allow them to apply for jobs in top hotels.

Right now, Bermas and his team are working on two restaurant-campuses: one in the historic city of Hoi An, in a traditional shop house; and one in southern Philippines, in conjunction with a university there. Once they're up and running, Streets will bring top New York chefs to the schools to teach or conduct workshops, and they have plans to expand to other areas in Southeast Asia. The theme of last week's party was street food, with haute interpretations from some of the city's best chefs--Tabla's Floyd Cardoz was doling out roti rolls filled with spicy chicken tikka, mint chutney, and cucumbers, while chefs from Dell'Anima and L'Artusi served oversized lamb sliders. Brooklyn Flea regular Chida rolled around a pushcart full of its signature nieves, Mexican-style ices. The creamy "goat's milk caramel" was so good, I went back for seconds.

For more ways to eat your way to a better world, check out the "Yes We Can" package in our upcoming May issue, featuring eight trips where every aspect of your stay--accommodations, food, shopping, tours--pumps money back to communities in need.

Further reading:
* Chef Floyd Cardoz also served up some of his New Indian dishes to benefit non-profit Pratham's Read India program
* Make a Difference: Resources for caring travelers
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


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