Historically, individuals with developmental disabilities have been unable to pursue their passions because the community has failed to make available programs and services that are tailored to meet their unique learning needs. The TERI Culinary Institute removes this barrier through the development of a comprehensive, replicable model of education and support for those whose dreams revolve around the joy of growing, cooking , serving, and enjoying fresh and organic foods.
The Culinary Institute will offer three distinct educational components: The Culinary School; the Campus Café; and the Organic Gardening Program.
The Culinary School: The Joy of Cooking
All of us learn best when we are actively involved in doing something we love. At the Culinary School, our emphasis is on training individuals to find their careers in the culinary field, to cook for personal pleasure and health, and to discover and share the benefits of food in creating a bridge to valued community membership and relationships.
The vocational training program offers certificate training as a Sous Chef, Pantry Chef, Kitchen Assistant, and Food Preparer. Critical skills are taught in our Institute kitchens and internships are available through placement in our partner restaurants. Support is provided in securing a position in the culinary field once certificates are earned. We welcome international students to our schools, providing dormitory housing and 24-hour supervision to our students in apartments nearby the campus. In this way, we offer opportunities to individuals with special needs worldwide who wish to launch a new career rather than settle for “just a job.”
Many of our students love cooking but are not interested in pursuing this as a source of employment. For these people, the Culinary School offers multiple options for engagement and learning. These include cooking courses by theme (pasta making, cheese making, nutrition, etc.), guest chef demonstrations that bring the community into our school and the lives of our students, and opportunities to work with our Internship Chefs who are honing their skills in our unique setting.
TERI’s 30 years of excellence, leadership, and innovation are grounded in our ability to develop sustainable business models, and the Culinary Institute is no exception. At the Culinary School, we will use our organic, campus grown foods to produce a line of healthy and sumptuous sauces that can provide a source of revenue for the activities of the school. We will also use technology to share our courses with interested cooks worldwide. People with developmental disabilities are capable of making a significant contribution to our economy, and this enterprise is just one of the many ways we can lead the way in developing successful businesses that incorporate individuals with special needs.
Campus Café: The Joy of Serving
The Charles R. Cono Campus for Life Quality, which houses the Culinary Institute and other TERI model programs, will provide educational, life planning, and consultation services to hundreds of children and adults with special needs and the faculty and staff who work with them. The Campus Café will be an eatery that serves fresh and healthy foods for the campus and its visitors while also providing vocational training opportunities that lead to jobs in the food service industry.
The certificate programs offered at the Campus Café include Food Service, Bussing, Host and Hostess training, and Buffet Preparation. At the end of their course of study, our students will have the skills they need to obtain jobs in restaurants, diners, cafes, and catering companies. As with the Culinary School, students who complete their education at the Campus Café are able to access real-world job experience and receive assistance in seeking employment in their chosen specialization.
The Campus Café is more than just a restaurant and school. It will also host clubs and events that integrate the community into the activities of the campus. We plan to develop clubs that can be accessed by all interested people, with and without disabilities. Some of these include the Gourmet Society for those with discriminating tastes, Chef’s Sustaining Agriculture, Red Hat Clubs, and other new and existing special interest groups. Our events will embrace people at all levels who share a similar interest: a passion for food and fellowship.
Communities are always in need of beautiful and welcoming places to host receptions, meetings, and other social events. The Campus Café will be available to the community for these purposes, with the added benefit of catering services provided by our staff and students. We believe that the Campus Café, located in the beautiful San Marcos valley, will become a first choice destination for people who want to assure that their important day is as special as the people who serve them.
Organic Gardening Program: The Joy of Nurturing
TERI has a longstanding commitment to improve the health and life quality of the staff, children, and adults involved in our programs. A big part of attaining this goal is assuring that the foods we eat are healthy and grown in a manner that is respectful of our earth’s resources. Our Organic Gardening Program not only promotes this philosophy, but provides opportunities for career training as Garden Assistants for adults with special needs who want to pursue a career spent outdoors in communion with nature.
Our Organic Gardening Program will occupy a full 6 acres of our 22 acre Charles R. Cono Campus for Life Quality. We have partnered with Slow Foods of America, embracing their philosophy of the need to use sustainable methods for growing our food and to recognize that food is a primary way to bring together people of all cultures and abilities around a common interest. We have already started organic gardens at our residential programs, and we are learning more each day about the best ways to involve the people we serve in this rewarding and engaging endeavor.
In addition to serving as a training ground for career advancement, our Organic Gardening program will provide a host of opportunities for microenterprise development. We will grow specialty herbs and heirloom vegetables for resale to our community partner chefs; grow and sell cut flowers, fruits, nuts, and citrus at our own and other Farmer’s Markets; and build a greenhouse to develop new varieties of plants and herbs to improve and enhance the foods we eat. Our vineyards will thrive on the surrounding hillsides and provide endless options for new products and income to support our students and our programs.
We live in a society that often fails to appreciate that our greatest joys are sometimes experienced in the simplest of moments. In our 30 years of working with individuals with special needs, we have learned that the best memories are often built around the smallest of accomplishments: the wonder of watching a seed you have planted grow to maturity; the calm of enjoying the outdoors and nurturing the life that grows outside your window; the pleasure of sharing with others something you have had a part in preparing. We are returning to a simpler and healthier lifestyle that we believe will make a positive difference in the quality of life of all those we serve.
Director of Culinary & Agricultural Program
Chef Jana McMahon’s interest in food started early…in the kitchen of her parents and at the ovens of her grandmothers. A degreed horticulturalist from Colorado State University and cuisine savvy, her dishes utilize locally grown fresh product, simply yet elegantly prepared. Her 20 plus years of cooking experience spans from working “in the trenches” under accomplished Colorado chefs in several fine dining restaurants in Denver and Vail, partner in Glorious Food Catering in Maui, Executive Chef onboard the Hawaiian Based, Yacht Kakela, to owner of a Maui based private chef service. Jana and her cuisine has been featured on The Travel Channel. She is a Hawaii Master Gardener, a beekeeper and grows organic produce and herbs for her client’s meals from her own garden. She is a Vice Chair of Slow Food Maui and a member of Chef’s Collaborative and America’s Farmland Trust.