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Seattle chef guides foster youth toward career in the kitchen

Tom Douglas. (Tom Douglas Restaurants)

Some of the best holiday traditions start in the kitchen, where families whip up recipes, including some that go back generations.

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While that’s not a reality for thousands of foster children in Washington, nonprofit Treehouse is giving some the chance to cultivate their culinary passion.

Four aspiring, young cooks recently met up in a gourmet kitchen in downtown Seattle for a cooking class taught by local legend, restaurateur, and chef, Tom Douglas.

Douglas invited the youth from Treehouse as part of the non-profit’s Launch Success Program, supporting foster children as they age into adulthood.

“It’s really made me realize how easily attainable this dream is,” said Journey, who has aspirations of becoming a chef. “It’s not just a dream anymore, I’m actually making my way there now.”

The students learned from Douglas how to properly cut and sear chicken, a simple lesson that makes a big impact, according to Douglas.

“With foster kids you’re being shoved into somebody else’s tradition, somebody else’s household, somebody else’s reason why they celebrate in this particular way,” Douglas said. “But I think the positive energy of starting your own tradition, understanding it’s okay to create that for yourself, is really a positive, awesome thing and I hope they take that away with them.”

Treehouse defines success by steering youth toward a degree or certificate, a living wage, and stable housing. Paris is on a path to achieve it all.

“Hopefully in the near future, I plan to have different restaurants, like different foods, like burger joints, taco joints,” she described.

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After her cooking lesson with Douglas, Paris set up her own home-kitchen delivery business, a first step to achieving her goals. Treehouse and Douglas say they’ll be there in the coming years, as she transitions from foster care to becoming an entrepreneur.

“You have to find what your end goal is to get through these tougher times, these areas where you’re not as comfortable,”  Douglas said. “That’s what I like about Treehouse — is that it’s the same thing, they’re just there to support.”

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