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 call 416-916-1066 ext. 123 or 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.

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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 (NEW)

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 start the intake process, you will need to attend a one-hour orientation to learn about the program and decide if you'd like to participate. From there, you will need to register for a 2-day job shadow period that involves helping in the kitchen with some light tasks. At the end of the second day, a chef will administer a Culinary Questionnaire. If you are accepted into the program, we will contact you the week before the start of the new cohort/group.

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

What does the program offer?

The program is 10 months long and includes 16 weeks of instructor-led, hands-on kitchen experience. This includes food labs, culinary skills demonstrations and employer presentations. There is also a one-week Life Skills component (focusing on teamwork, communication, etc.) and weekly Job Search workshops. You'll also receive 24 weeks of post-program employment support.

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?

Due to COVID-19, the Life Skills and Job Search workshops are virtual due to limited access to workshop rooms. The rest of the program is full-time in the kitchen.

I am worried about COVID-19. Is it safe?

Yes. We have been operating since May 2020 and there have been no cases of COVID-19. We follow a strict daily screening process and follow Ontario’s COVID-19 procedures as it pertains to restaurants, bars & other food service premises.

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

We have a COVID-19 vaccination policy for all visitors, staff, volunteers, members and participants 12 and older. For more information please visit https://ymcagta.org/vaccination.