A chef cooking in a professional kitchen

YMCA Basic Culinary Skills Training Program

This unique, 16-week training program, led by professional instructors, will help you develop essential kitchen and employment skills to find and maintain work in the hospitality industry. The YMCA has been delivering this high-quality program since 1984.

Note: Participants must be Ontario Works recipients and live in the City of Toronto.

To learn more please email YMCAHospitality@ymcagta.org

The YMCA Basic Culinary Skills Training Program has an outstanding success rate: nearly 80% of graduates find work in the hospitality field. From the start, participants learn theory and prepare food under the supervision of our highly experienced Chef Director and Chef Instructors.

Play video

16-Week Program Certificate

YMCA participants earn a certificate after completing 16 weeks of culinary training including:

  • Food theory labs, culinary skills demonstrations, and life skills/job search workshops
  • Basic First Aid and CPR/AED Certification
  • Toronto Food Handler Certification

Post-Graduate Support

We want more young people to have aspiration, opportunity, and support to complete their education, get volunteer/work experience, and transition to meaningful and stable career paths. Ultimately, the project aims to help Black youth achieve the support, life skills, and improved employment outcomes that will positively affect their lifelong health and well-being.

Successful YMCA of Greater Toronto participants receive 24 weeks of post-graduate support for their personal growth as they transition to meaningful and stable career paths. They use the soft skills learned throughout their program training to effectively communicate, team-build, create a resume, improve their interview skills, and help with their job search.

Hands-On Training

Participants receive practical on-the-job training and experience preparing high-quality meals, giving them a head start to getting a job in the hospitality field.

chef baking
Meals on Wheels

High-quality meals are prepared from scratch for seniors living alone and people who are chronically ill, living with disabilities, and recovering patients.

YMCA Catering

The YMCA supplies catering for groups of 10 to 350 people. Program participants learn how to respond to and manage catering orders.

Y Café

Meals are prepared á-la-minute or grab-and-go style for the downtown community.

Second Harvest Kitchen

YMCA program participants prepare balanced, nutritious meals for shelters in the City of Toronto.

What the program delivers
  • 40 students/year
  • 90% graduate employment rate
  • 16 weeks hands-on training
  • 24 weeks employment support
  • 450 Second Harvest Meals a week
  • 250 Meals on Wheels daily
What the program offers participants
  • Modern, diverse, and high-quality recipes
  • Food production, food theory, and culinary history
  • Knife skills and setup
  • Working in a state-of-the-art production kitchen
  • Onsite testing for Food Handler’s Basic Certification 

YMCA Basic Culinary Skills Training Program FAQ

Can this program help me find a job?

Absolutely! The Hospitality program prides itself on a 80–90% success rate. We can provide you with important job-related skills, support with finding a non-paid, 4-week placement, and help you search for available jobs.

I’m a new Immigrant. Would I qualify?

Yes. The YMCA supports diversity and inclusivity. We accept newcomers including refugees and Permanent Residence applicants. You must have a work permit that is valid for 1 year after the program start date, a minimum LINC level 5, and you must be legally able to work in Canada.

Are there any other requirements to qualify for the program?

Yes. The program requires that you are able to function in a kitchen setting. This may involve standing for extended periods of time and handling up to 50 Ibs. (approximately the weight of a large sack of potatoes). Also, you need to be in receipt of Ontario Works (Welfare).

Are there any fees for your services?

No, the program is free for recipients of Ontario Works. Unfortunately, it is not open to the general public for payment.

How do I qualify for the program?

To be eligible for the program, you must first be a recipient of Ontario Works. If you meet this criterion, you can request your caseworker to send us a referral. Upon receipt of the referral, we will reach out to you. Following this, you will proceed with the intake process, which begins with attending a one-hour orientation session to familiarize yourself with the program and determine your interest in participating. Subsequently, you will be scheduled for an observation shift, during which you will engage in the day-to-day activities of the kitchen. Following the observation shift, you will have a one-on-one interview with one of our Chefs. Once the screening process is finalized, we will communicate our decision to you.

You don’t need any cooking skills, but it would be helpful.

What does the program offer?

The program spans 16 weeks and is structured around instructor-led, practical kitchen experience. This encompasses various activities such as food labs, demonstrations of culinary skills, presentations from employers, and a 4-week placement experience. Additionally, there is a one-week Life Skills component that emphasizes teamwork, communication, and related skills, along with weekly Job Search workshops. Furthermore, participants will benefit from 24 weeks of post-program employment assistance.

If accepted, you will receive a hat, two jackets and two aprons. When you graduate, you will receive a YMCA Basic Culinary Skills Program Certificate, CPR/AED, WHMIS, Food Safety Certificate and a knife set.

Are the classes virtual?

The Life Skills and Job Search workshops are conducted in person but require access to a computer. Like the rest of the program, these workshops require full-time attendance in the kitchen.

What is the YMCA of Greater Toronto’s vaccination policy?

For more information on the current vaccination policy, please visit https://ymcagta.org/vaccination.