Food Arts presents the April 1997 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance to Richard Grausman, founder/president of Careers Through Culinary Arts Program, Inc. (C-CAP), a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and guiding inner-city students toward careers in the foodservice industry.
Grausman, a cooking teacher, started C-CAP in 1990 in an effort to broaden the culinary values home economics education. From its launch in 12 New York City high schools, C-CAP has grown to encompass 200 schools in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, Washington D.C./Fairfax, Virginia, Norfolk/Virginia Beach, and Phoenix. The program will soon spread to Dallas, San Francisco, and Miami opening kitchen and restaurant doors to more than 10,000 students nationwide. Through Grausman, kids of limited means and prospects gain a sense of self-esteem and tangible skill they can apply to the food world’s expanding inventory of opportunities.
“We tell people in the industry that when C-CAP students come in for an interview, they’ll show up on time,” says Grausman, who lives in New York with his wife and two daughters. “We tell them the kids want to work and learn, that they have rudimentary safety and sanitary skills, and tomes even have knife skills. The program teaches kids how to dress, be interviewed, and fill out employment forms. In short, it gives them a dose of the real world. Our real success is when the kids’ classmates comeback and tell them what it’s like.”
Grausman, who has two paid employees but draws no salary himself, works with the boards of education in C-CAP cities to gain the resources for upgrading culinary curricula in high schools and increasing teacher training. He seeks additional funds or in-kind donations for these goals from corporate sponsors. Local restaurants and hotels are contacted to make internships and apprenticeships available to C-CAP students, and purveyors are sought to donate equipment and food products to the schools. Plans are made with chefs to serve as adjunct instructors/lecturers and to give demos. Academic years conclude with culinary competitions that award the top students scholarships to the Culinary Institute of America, The French Culinary Institute, Johnson & Wales University, and many other programs.
Grausman’s efforts have not passed unnoticed. In letters that brought C-CAP to the attention of First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton last spring, Philadelphia superintendent of schools David W. Hornbeck wrote: “It is rare that programs of such quality are developed for the sole purpose of helping our students in need.” And, wrote former Ohio Senator Howard M. Metzenbaum: “His [Grausman’s] work in putting this program together has been selfless… and endorsement from the President… would help in persuading the hospitality industry to provide the necessary financial support.”
A preference test administered to him as a youngster at Manhattan’s P.S. 6 gave Grausman a glimpse of his future. “The results said I should be a social worker, but when they listed the jobs under that category none of them interested me,” he says. “But that’s what I’m doing now. I came by this through my love and passion for food and teaching. I saw a problem, I knew I could have an effect on the problem, and it all came together.”
Grausman, 59, the son of a surgeon, graduated in 1959 with an economics degree from the University of North Carolina, where he played varsity soccer. He then spent six years in the importing business. His epiphany came while substituting for his boss at one of the James Beard’s cooking classes: “Jim took me to another level of euphoria.” During a European vacation in 1967, Grausman enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, where he earned the Grand Diplôme and made such an impression on Elizabeth Brassert, the school’s owner, that in 1969 she made him the school’s first exclusive representative.
Grausman crossed the United States conducting cooking classes and other business for Le Cordon Bleu until 1984. He helped arrange the sale of the school in 1985, purchasing a 25 percent stake in the new ownership headed by Cointreau. After selling his share in 1986, Grausman devoted himself to writing a cookbook, At Home with the French Classics (Workman Publishing, NY, 1988). The idea for C-CAP came to him while he was on the road promoting the book and teaching classes.
“If someone had told me at the time of that preference test that my interests indicated a giving person, a caring person, I’d have come to the hospitality industry sooner than I did,” says Grausman. “In essence, I’m getting tremendous pleasure and gratification from this work.”