A Man On A Culinary Mission To Change Lives

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I had the opportunity to sit down with Richard Grausman, a man who wears many hats. He is an author, culinary educator and founder of Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP). Grausman is being honored at the 30th Anniversary of C-CAP on Tuesday, February 25 at Chelsea Piers in New York City for his tireless work to empower underserved youth through the culinary arts.

C-CAP provides a holistic and integrated approach to employment for youth and young adults through job training and life skills, internships and work opportunities, industry mentoring and connections, college and career advising, and scholarships, along with product and equipment donations to partner high schools across the country. Co-chaired by chef Marcus Samuelsson, C-CAP partners with 150 public high schools to support 15,000 students nationwide each year to develop their interest and skills for careers in the culinary and hospitality industry.

Grausman has expanding the program to many cities across the country and will continue to serve an extensive amount of high-school students bringing life-changing results for many more years to come.

OR: Congratulations to you on the 30th Anniversary of C-CAP and being honored for your work. We also hear that Sarabeth Levine, restaurateur, baker and owner Sarabeth’s is being honored for her work as well so congratulations to her as well. Can you bring us back on how you started the organization?

RG: I had been teaching French cooking for Le Cordon Bleu de Paris for 15 years and left to write my book, At Home With The French Classics now for sale as French Classics Made EasyDuring my 15-city book tour, I realized that the American diet was based on hamburgers, pizza and fried chicken and I wanted to expand the options.  I also found out that it was hard to change the habits of an adult and knew if I was to have any effect, I would need to get into the schools.

That brought me to the NYC Board of Education.  I suggested that I teach their Home Economics teachers recipes from my book so that their students would be exposed to French food. They liked the idea but didn’t have any money. After visiting a classroom and finding out that they truly needed money and help, I set out to do just that.

Upon visiting several schools, I realized that the students who were in the classes were the students that the school system had failed. All had poor grades and didn’t know what they would do if and when they graduated. That’s when I turned my focus to finding careers for the students in these school programs.  Hence the name of our organizations, Careers through (the culinary arts program of the schools.) This has not been clear to most people, but truly describes the nature of our work.

OR: How many students have you served through the program? 

RG: In the neighborhood of 200,000.

OR: What do the student programs consist of?

RG: In addition to what they are learning in their classrooms, we provide class visits to restaurants, hotels, food service facilities and the like, giving the students a look at various places of work.  We offer shadowing opportunities so that they can get an idea of what work in the industry is like. We do summer job training and place students in paid internships. We offer college and career guidance. We run culinary competitions with the opportunity to win scholarships for college tuition assistance. We help teachers improve their culinary skills and knowledge.

OR: What cities does C-CAP serve?

RG: New York, Philadelphia, Washington DC, Chicago, Arizona and Los Angeles. (Up until this year, we also had a program in the Hampton Roads area of VA.)

OR: What is your favorite success story as I’m sure there are many? 

RG: I have two and cannot chose one over the other. Amar Santana, was a New York student of parents who emigrated from Santo Domingo.  A poor student academically who landed in one of our Home Economic classrooms with a great teacher who saw his potential.  In his junior year, I noticed him in our competition and awarded him and his teacher a one-week all-expense trip to London to attend the Cordon Bleu school.  He returned and applied himself in his senior year. His grades were still not good enough to win one of our academic scholarships but we awarded him an Elizabeth Grausman scholarship to attend the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), where he excelled.  I helped him get an internship with Charlie Palmer at his restaurant Aureole. Amar went to work at the same restaurant when he graduated from the CIA. Periodically, he would tell me that he was leaving Aureole because there were no opportunities for him to advance.  I would tell him to speak with Charlie. After each meeting there was a promotion. Several years later, he became Charlie’s Executive Chef at the Charlie Palmer restaurant in Orange County, CA. While working there he made a name for himself and after a few years opened his first restaurant, Broadway by Amar Santana in Laguna Beach.  After a few years of success, he opened his next restaurant in Costa Mesa, called Vaca. This year he just opened his third concept, The Hall Global Eatery also in the South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.

Carlton McCoy, grew up in Anacostia, DC., one of  the worse neighborhoods in Washington.  Raised by his grandmother, I discovered Carlton in our competition at Anacostia High School.  When I asked Carlton what he wanted to do in life, he said that he either wanted to be a doctor or a chef.  I found that interesting since my father was a doctor and I was a chef. I asked him what his SAT scores were and told him to be a chef.  We sent him to the CIA where he excelled. I arranged an internship at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown and he was asked to come back after graduation.  Carlton opted to work in New York for Thomas Keller at his restaurant Per Se, where he worked the front of the house. He was recruited to help open the Mandarin Hotel in DC and worked there for several years, building on his interest in wine that started at the CIA.  Long story shorter, he went on my advice, to The Little Nell in Aspen and within a couple of years, became the second and youngest African American Master Sommelier in the world. Soon thereafter he became the Wine Director of The Little Nell and this year was hired as the President & CEO or Heitz Cellar in Napa.

Both Amar and Carlton have achieved success at a level I never dreamed would be possible.

OR: How did you get Marcus Sammuelson involved in the organization?

RG: I met Marcus shortly after he was made Executive Chef at Aquavit Restaurant.  I immediately saw his potential as a mentor for our students and enlisted his support.  Marcus volunteered for us as a judge at our competition, hired and advised our students for a number of years and we became friends.  I always knew that Marcus would be a good leader for our program and asked him to join our board, where he is now the Co-Chairman. 

OR: What is Tim Zagat’s role with C-CAP?

RG: My father was Tim’s father’s counselor at summer camp.  We grew up in NYC, but we never really knew each other. While I was studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, I met Nina Zagat who came for classes at the school.  She sat next to me on several occasions and we started talking. She invited me to a party for Sargent Shriver at the Eifel Tower where I met Tim. We became fast friends and they were frequent guests at my apartment in Paris.  We also went out to restaurants together and he started writing reviews of the restaurants. Back in NY, he started writhing his guide to restaurants and I helped by passing them out to the people who attended the classes I was teaching for Le Cordon Bleu.  By the time I started C-CAP, Tim was very successful with his Zagat Guide and when I needed a board to get the non-profit going, I asked him to be a founding member. The rest is history…

OR: You have the 30th Anniversary Celebration coming up on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers. What does this recognition mean to you?

RG: It is acknowledgement of the work I have done for 30 years and is the pinnacle in my career. 

OR: What will make this event different from the others?

RG: My whole family will play a role.  My wife Susan who is my guiding light, is in charge of the event, my brother Philip designed the C-CAP Bean Award, my nephew, David and his Trio will provide the music, my daughter Jennifer, who directed the Emmy-nominated film PRESSURE COOKER and several members of the cast will be there and my daughter Deborah, the voice of Sesame Street character Smartie, will be there with several members of the show.  That makes it a very special night for me.

OR: How did the team come to select the restaurants or are they mostly recurring?  

RG: Most of the chefs have been mentors for our students over the years and we always invite the best chefs in town.  Two of the chefs are alums.

OR: Looking ahead, what can we expect from C-CAP in the future? 

RG: My expectation is to see more alums rising to the top and we should be expanding our Apprenticeship Program to help even more student than we are today.

OR: What would you tell your 8-year-old self?

RG: Work hard, have confidence in your ability to learn whatever you want to do and find work that you enjoy!

OR:How can our readers purchase tickets?

RG: They can visit our website: https://ccapinc.org/events/c-cap-annual-benefit-2020/ 

Please feel free to be social and engage with us:


Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CCAPinc/

OR: Thank you for taking the time to speak with me and we look forward to seeing you at the big celebration. 

RG: It was my pleasure and I look forward to seeing you there.


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