Transforming Lives and Communities Through the Culinary Arts

The female class of the CNX Foundation Mentorship Academy met last week at the Empowerment, Awareness, and Training (EAT) Initiative, which is housed at the Pittsburgh Energy Innovation Center. Chef Claudy Pierre is the founder and head of the EAT Initiative. Chef invested his day with our students, discussing his life story and how he used the culinary arts to not only build a career, but also to turn his life around at a crucial point.

The EAT Initiative trains young adults in hospitality education, while simultaneously addressing food insecurity within underserved communities. If you want to see what the confluence of capitalism, work ethic, and community service looks like, spend a few minutes with Chef Claudy.

Our students learned the basics of knife safety and then went to work under the supervision of Chef, putting together an awesome lunch of tacos and salsa. The exercise brought home a key motivator for a career in the challenging culinary arts: seeing your hard work manifest into a final work product that is enjoyed by the customer. Few careers offer such a direct and timely connection between your effort and the tangible product.

The day with the EAT Initiative provided a massive benefit of creating an environment where the students not only worked as a team but had fun doing so. Holiday music was playing, students were focused but laughing, and you sensed the group wrapped the day tighter than when it started.

And oh, by the way, the massive Lower Hill District development plan (adjacent to the Penguins arena and the EAT Initiative) is going to offer a range of entrepreneurial opportunities in the culinary arts and hospitality fields. A few students were already thinking about learning the craft and establishing a business.

Chef Claudy delivered a Mentorship Academy trifecta. Opening students’ eyes to a potential career path: check. Inspiring students with a real, personal life story: check. Getting hands-on experience while having a good time: check.

This is the first month where we had to split the Academy themes and events due to logistics. But both December’s Academy site visits were exceptional events that are likely to impact more than a few career paths.

If you want to learn more about the amazing work of Chef Claudy and the EAT Initiative, visit, follow EAT on Facebook at, and follow Chef Claudy on Twitter at @ClaudiusMaxamus.

The Mentorship Academy is an initiative of CNX Foundation and part of CNX’s commitment to investing in its local community. Designed for high school students who do not plan to immediately attend a four-year college, the Academy is focused on providing urban and rural youth from economically disadvantaged regional Appalachian communities with greater opportunities—helping provide these young adults a bridge to family-sustaining careers. Following the mentorship program, students will have developed new relationships with peers and business leaders across western Pennsylvania, a new excitement for the region’s career opportunities and an understanding of how to pursue those careers.

Transforming Lives and Communities Through the Culinary Arts