Manna's Culinary Program

In order for a person to gain greater self-sufficiency, several elements are necessary. The main components include having basic needs met such as food and shelter plus acquiring new jobs skills and completing or expanding education. It’s widely known that Manna offers healthy meals and resources to its clients, but maybe not so recognized is that Manna provides a skills training program as well.

Manna’s Culinary Program was established in 2014 as a way to help people gain the necessary skills to secure a job in the food service industry. This course is facilitated by our Culinary Manager with teachings by guest chefs from our community. Partnerships with local resources offer services with weekly classroom presentations. The program is open to the community and Manna clients. Upon completion of the program, students receive a Certificate of Completion and their two-year CO state recognized Food Handlers Certificate. By combining cooking skills and baking skills obtained in our commercial kitchen, as well as life skills taught in our classroom, graduates are taking those next steps in life toward successful independence. Students can expect to jump start long-term employment through discipline and determination. 


Changing Lives One Student at a Time

During his intake interview with our former Culinary School Manager, Chef Heather, Tyler shared stories about his extremely strict upbringing and experiencing intermittent, chronic homelessness beginning at the age of 13. Shortly after his 18th birthday, he enrolled in the Manna Culinary Program with a passionate attitude and a desire to succeed. With the help of supportive volunteers and the staff at Manna, he completed the 10-week session with perfect attendance. In addition to excelling in the teaching kitchen, he also volunteered in the soup kitchen on a regular basis to sharpen his skills whenever possible.

To quote Tyler, “Patience is key, as is being strict.” Tyler is overcoming the odds and, through resiliency, is gaining more and more independence each day. Shortly after completing the Manna Culinary

Program, he secured a cook position at one of the largest restaurants in Durango. He was promoted to a shift lead position soon thereafter. We rarely see him at Manna anymore, which we see as an amazing outcome.

Our History

While Manna’s primary mission is to feed those in need, its larger goal is to help its clients gain greater self-sufficiency through supportive services and job training programs. A generous gift from an individual donor and matching funds from subsequent supporters allowed Manna to build a facility that includes a commercial kitchen in 2014. This led to the launching of Manna’s culinary program that year, the only program of its kind in the Four Corners area. It filled a need by providing the local food service industry with qualified employees and has been deeply supported by the Colorado Restaurant Association through trainings by guest chefs and internship/job partnerships. The program currently boasts a 75% percent job placement rate and continues to teach necessary skills that help contribute to the overall economic vitality of our region.

Quick Facts

  • There are 2 classes each year: fall and spring
  • The program runs for 10 weeks – daytime classes
  • Cost is $1,000 with payment & full scholarships available
  • Class size is only 8 students per semester
  • A portion of the food used for teaching/learning comes from the Manna Garden
  • The program has an 75% job placement rate
  • The Durango Restaurant Association is actively involved in the program
  • Upon completion, students receive a Culinary and Food Handlers Certificate
  • Manna is contributing to the overall health and economic vitality of the region

How do I enroll as a student?

Our classes are small so that we can offer the personal attention needed to help you achieve success. You’ll also have the opportunity to work with local chefs and take part in exciting catering events. 


How do I support this program?

Community members can support Manna's Culinary Program in a variety of ways. We offer opportunities to sponsor a student,  teach as a guest chef, and hire our talent.