By Paul Schlienz 

Hospitality serves communities, and it often transforms lives. 

If you want to see a perfect example of the hospitality industry’s ability to improve lives, look no further than Seattle’s non-profit FareStart. Its motto is “Great Food. Better Lives.”

The Washington Hospitality Association and the Washington Hospitality Association Education Foundation have championed FareStart for years. Hundreds of Seattle-area chefs continually volunteer at the FareStart Restaurant. The restaurants and hotels that have hired FareStart graduates is an impressive list including large chains, like Starbucks Coffee Company, Pineapple Hospitality and Ivar’s Acres of Clams, and smaller independent restaurants like Skillet, Altstadt and Marination. 

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FareStart has been helping people transform their lives through food for more than 25 years—one person, one job and one community at a time. How it does this is through four unique programs that use the hospitality industry to train people for meaningful occupations. 

Through its restaurants, cafés, catering and programs that provide meals to social services, shelters and schools in the Seattle area, FareStart participants gain practical work experience. FareStart works closely with local businesses, including Nordstrom, the Derschang Group and Tom Douglas Restaurants, to develop programs that provide the skills the industry needs most. This collaboration ensures that more than 90 percent of FareStart’s adult graduates land good jobs within 90 days of completing the program. 

Its Adult Culinary Program serves populations, like individuals who were formally incarcerated, who would otherwise face severe barriers to entering the job market. It’s Youth Barista Program partners with YouthCare and focuses on training Seattle’s youth struggling with homelessness. FareStart’s Youth Culinary Program is an eight-week program connected with Seattle’s public schools. And its newest offering, the Foodservice Apprenticeship Program, is designed to help people who are already working in foodservice to advance their careers. 

As the apprenticeship program grows, more lower-income foodservice workers will gain skills and employment in higher-income positions such as line cooks, line leads, sous chefs, supervisors and managers. Unlike textbook-based education, an apprenticeship gives participants hands-on training and experience that is invaluable in real life. 

Apprentices may be past FareStart adult and youth program graduates who need an opportunity to gain additional skills to qualify for higher wage positions. In addition to FareStart youth and adult graduates, the apprenticeship program is for anyone living in poverty, with a history of employment barriers and six months of foodservice experience can join the program.

Apprentices will receive a stipend as they advance their skills and after completion will be assisted in finding a job suited to their new skill level. 

Among the program’s first eight graduates was a cook from Altstadt, a Seattle German restaurant, who is now a sous chef. 

“We were looking at how we could train and provide opportunities for our staff,” said Megan Coombes, owner, chef and manager at Altstadt. “FareStart’s apprenticeship program is a fantastic way to train staff while also keeping them in the restaurant while they’re gaining new skills.” 

If you are interested in utilizing FareStart apprenticeship program to upskill your own staff, visit to learn more about the program. 

“Poverty is growing in Seattle, while the foodservice and hospitality industries are experiencing a shortage of chefs and other staff in higher wage positions” said Stephanie Schoo, FareStart’s marketing communications director. “FareStart’s Foodservice Program aims to bridge that gap to help more people get trained into living wage jobs and fill those vacant positions. It’s a win-win for everyone involved.”