Second Helpings is known for feeding the hungry in Greater Indianapolis. The more-than-700-volunteer organization does this by creating hot meals for 75 agencies in and around Indianapolis using donated food. It’s on a mission to serve one million meals this year.

And since 1998, Second Helpings’ Culinary Job Training Program has provided valuable preparation to help its students land jobs in the local food service/restaurant industry. This has greatly improved their lives, and our community.

“Graduates leave Second Helpings not only with real cooking skills, but also with practical knowledge of what will be expected of them in the workplace,” said Second Helpings CEO Jennifer Vigran. “They leave with training in time management, which is crucial in the culinary business, and they learn how to conduct themselves in a professional kitchen environment.”

More than 600 students have completed the free 10-week program since its inception. In addition to learning basic knife skills and cooking techniques, students receive practical training that discusses financial literacy and helps them learn how to dress, present themselves and interview for jobs. The classes are diverse and populated with students from all walks of life. Some students are living in shelters, overcoming homelessness or in addiction recovery; others may have recently been laid off and find themselves in need of new marketable job skills.

“For many of the men and women, a Second Helpings graduation certificate feels like a golden ticket to a start a whole new life,” Vigran said. “It’s a life-changing experience. They leave with confidence to move forward, eager to continue learning and with skills that will allow them to provide for their families. For many, it’s their first taste of accomplishment and success.”

Becky Hostetter, co-owner of Duos Kitchen—an Indianapolis-based eatery with two locations, a food truck, a catering element and a weekday lunch operation at Eskenazi Health—started working with Second Helpings in 2011.

“What speaks to us about the job-training program are a number of points,” she said. “We believe in the mission of another chance, with folks being respected and acknowledged from whatever place and circumstance they may have come from.”

Through the years, Hostetter has hired six Second Helpings graduates to work at Duos Kitchen and she keeps in touch with those who have moved on to other positions and work environments.

“I always encourage other chef pals to check with Second Helpings when looking for new staff,” Hostetter said. “It’s always good to feel like you’re part of the cycle of giving and receiving, and that is most certainly a very strong feature of Second Helpings.”

Skila Edmundson

Skila Edmundson is the newest addition to the Duos Kitchen, having joined the team in March 2012 a week after her Second Helpings graduation.

“My chef instructor knows Becky and David Hostetter well, and came to me and said they were looking for someone to help in the kitchen,” Skila said. “I called Becky and set up an interview.

”Prior to enrolling in the Second Helpings program, Skila had worked as an assistant to an ISTEP coordinator. But, she knew her passion wasn’t truly in education and wanted to make a change.

“Cooking has always been my dream,” she said. “When my mother became ill, before she passed, I promised her that I would go back to school to pursue cooking.”

Through Second Helpings, Skila learned about time management, cooking etiquette and self-presentation. She’s also earned five credits through the Second Helpings program to apply at Ivy Tech Community College, where she’s planning to take business management courses and complete her culinary degree with an eye toward opening a restaurant of her own someday.

“I’m always trying to look ahead and work on my faith to see where it leads me,” Skila said.

For now, though, Skila is happy working with a diverse crowd of people at Duos, and learning something new: vegan and vegetarian cooking.

“On a personal level, I feel great pride in our relationship with Second Helpings, and extreme honor to be able to work alongside Skila,” Hostetter said. “She can do every single job in the kitchen, and is full of good energy and wit. Skila is an amazing example of all the good that Second Helpings can create.”

Second Helpings graduate Anthony Perry was Hostetter’s very first Duos Kitchen hire. Anthony’s grandmother saw an ad for the Second Helpings program in a newspaper and suggested he might want to pursue it.

“I was an unemployed cook at the time,” he said. “I went through the program and graduated in October 2010 as part of class #60.”

Anthony Perry

Second Helpings graduate Anthony Perry was Hostetter’s very first Duos Kitchen hire. Anthony’s grandmother saw an ad for the Second Helpings program in a newspaper and suggested he might want to pursue it.

“I did a little bit of everything—prep cook, line cook, working in the food truck and catering,” Anthony said. “What I learned from Becky is to always be happy and friendly. She also taught me about the value of using fresh, local ingredients; it makes such a big difference.”

By August 2013, Anthony was ready to take on new challenges. He applied for a job at the Capital Grille, where he now works as a line cook. In a full-circle twist of fate, Capital Grille donates to Second Helpings, so Anthony still gets to keep in touch with his contacts there.

Anthony hopes to use his Second Helpings kitchen training to progress with Capital Grille and, one day, to open his own bistro. He also credits Second Helpings with training him in other important life skill areas, particularly public speaking.

“I was a really shy guy, and it broke me out of my shell,” he said. “Doing an interview like this would have been impossible for me before.”

For more information about the Second Helpings Culinary Job Training Program, call 317.632.2664 or visit To apply for the program, email tiera@secondhelpings.orgor complete an online application on the website.

All graduates leave with a food safety certification called ServSafe. State law requires every commercially licensed kitchen have at least one certified person in the kitchen during operating hours.

Second Helpings Culinary Training program

A 10-week, no-cost program offered four times per year

Approximately 25 students per class

Application process: math and writing test (about eighth grade level), drug test, one-on-one meeting with Chef Sam Brown and eight hours of volunteer service in the Second Helpings Hunger Relief kitchen.

Local kitchens that regularly hire Second Helpings graduates include Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Lucas Oil Stadium, Eskenazi Health, Harry & Izzy’s, Oakley’s Bistro, JW Marriott, The Alexander Hotel, Butler University and Flatwater Restaurant.

Photos by Cassie Tam

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