Kneaded: Life Skills
Culinary interns with disabilities rise to the challenge when put to work in this Wisconsin bakery with a heart.
By Jennifer Billock
Photography by Kevin Miyazaki
They may be known for their specialty cakes or popular apple fritters, but those aren't the only sweet things at the Country Rose Bakery and Cafe in Union Grove, Wisconsin. Back in the kitchen, owners and sisters Rose Laketa and Rita Zadursky are helping to knead and shape the lives of culinary interns who have so much more to gain than basic bakery skills.
Their good work began when the nearby Shepherds College Culinary Arts program approached the sisters about training interns with intellectual disabilities. They jumped at the chance.
"We were the first business to take on an intern," says Rose, who is also a veteran certified nursing assistant for the developmentally disabled. "It's satisfying to be a part of (an intern's) growth as a baker, to watch her grow as an individual and see the impact it makes on her life, as well as ours."
The internship program is definitely not a cakewalk. "Our interns do a large variety of bakery and restaurant duties," explains Rose. Throughout the school year, the trainees—who must be over 18 and able to read and do math at a third-grade level or higher—do everything from dishes and food prep to making specialty coffee drinks and waiting on customers.
In return, students in the three-year program earn a culinary arts certificate and gain the soup-to-nuts knowledge it takes to work in the demanding food industry.
Rose credits the program's success partly to the line of communication she shares with the staff at Shepherds College. "By working together, we're able to find what each person does best," Rose says.
The program works so well that Country Rose hired its first intern, Gloria Pavuk, as a staff member and recently accepted another, Jocelyn Monroe, into the kitchen and bakery with open arms.
But it's not all dishes and prep work: The interns also take a hand in the creative aspect of the restaurant business by trying out some new recipes. "My fondest memory is of walking into work one morning and seeing Gloria and the entire area around her covered in powdered sugar," Rose recalls with a smile. "She looked at me and said, 'Umm, I had a little accident!'"
Rose and Rita are longtime subscribers to Taste of Home and use readers' recipes daily at Country Rose, including Lemon Bars similar to this one from Etta Soucy of Mesa, Arizona. "We make almost everything here on site from scratch," says Rose. (At right, Gloria and Rose put the finishing touches on a batch of Lemon Bars.)
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