Our Mission


Evvia ChefsThe El Cajon Project helps at-risk and disadvantaged high school students to graduate from high school and become productive members of our communities through an innovative culinary arts training program that offers school credit through a rigorous, hands-on learning environment at exclusive four and five-star restaurants, including Evvia Palo Alto and others. This unique vocational education initiative establishes multi-faceted relationships among youths, families, schools, business and dedicated individuals that strive to improve youths’ confidence and self-esteem while fostering personal growth and development.

School representatives select students, based on criteria that designate them “at-risk”. These students are primarily high school juniors and seniors. The El Cajon Project staff reviews each student’s application and conducts an interview to determine suitability to the program.

students cookingA youth who signs a contract with the El Cajon Project will supplement his or her regular curriculum with hands-on training in a carefully screened upscale area restaurant. Valuable vocational skills will be developed in the areas of culinary arts as well as customer service, résumé writing and interviewing.

Constant communication is maintained between the student, a designated liaison of the student’s school district, the El Cajon program staff, and the restaurant’s chef and staff. Students generally work several hours each day in a restaurant kitchen, learning real world skills, one-on-one, from some of the Bay Area’s most prominent chefs. Good working habits are encouraged such as arriving on time, wearing proper clothing and following directions.

Restaurants are carefully screened and selected with prime consideration going to the quality of their kitchens--only chefs who produce high quality meals with fresh foods are considered. Participating restaurants include such notable establishments as Wolfgang Puck’s ‘Spagos’ and ‘Postrio’. Qualified restaurants also must exhibit a genuine interest and enthusiasm to provide students with an encouraging and challenging learning environment.

Watermelon SaladStudents will supplement their practical restaurant work with reading and testing, using culinary arts workbooks. They will also have the opportunity to attend culinary-related trade shows and other pertinent programs offered in the area.

Graduating students are honored at a dinner party to which parents, school staff, and local media are invited. They will receive an El Cajon Project Certificate of Completion, as well as academic credits determined by the students’ school district and the El Cajon staff.

What Is The El Cajon Project?

• IT IS a vocational training program created to serve at-risk youth, 16 to 19 years of age

• IT IS a unique partnering of youth, parents, high schools, businesses and a dedicated community

• IT IS youth demonstrating a willingness to rededicate themselves to laying the foundation for a successful life

• IT IS parents supporting their teenagers, helping them gain the confidence they will need to pursue success in life

• IT IS high schools having the flexibility to support a non-traditional method of education with academic credits and introduction of career path course work they could not ordinarily consider because of the prohibitive cost

• IT IS businesses opening their doors, donating their time and expertise and providing a hands-on learning environment

• IT IS the opportunity for at-risk students to make the most of Workability, a statewide job placement program

• IT IS a dedicated community supporting a viable solution to the problem of untrained and uneducated youth

• IT IS an innovative, community-based program for at-risk youth.

Together, we can help these youth be successful.