Graduates of a culinary training program for people out of prison helped prepare the Emmys Governors Ball dinner on Sunday.

Charlie Heller
September 20, 2017

It took 250 cooks to prepare the 4,200 plates worth of food served at the Primetime Emmys Governors Ball dinner on Sunday, some of whom have a very different history than you might expect. As detailed by the Los Angeles Times today, Emmys caterer Patina Restaurant Group partnered with the nonprofit L.A. Kitchen program to bring formerly incarcerated people into its kitchens, at the highest level around.

The team preparing the Emmys dinner at the L.A. Convention Center featured ten graduates of L.A. Kitchen's training program who you can get to know in the piece, like 30-year old Edgar Ulysses Flores, who, after spending a third of his life in jail, says he's now learned everything from shucking oysters to cooking octopus sous vide.

Founded in 2013 by entrepreneur and philanthropist Robert Egger, L.A. Kitchen runs a culinary job training program for formerly incarcerated adults, young adults who have aged out of the foster system, and older adults who are either formerly incarcerated or homeless. A combination of the tutelage of chief instructor and former Bottega Louie chef Charlie Negrete, and the students' effort and skill makes for a team where, as Eggers told the paper, no one watching the immaculate food preparation process could ever tell which members had less-traditional industry backgrounds.

Patina has served the Emmys Governors Ball dinner for the last 22 years, but its partnership with L.A. Kitchen only began in early 2017, with restaurant internships and priority hiring offered to students. It's one of several culinary institutions aiming to serve the formerly incarcerated, who face massive obstacles to re-entering society ranging from difficulties catching up with years of new technology they might have missed while in prison, to employers considering them unhirable. While places like Cleveland's Edwins (whose formerly incarcerated owner is now running for Mayor of Cleveland) can't pick up all the slack, they seem like a good recipe for other restaurants to follow.