Food for Thought: Turning Passions into Careers

By Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator
Photos Courtesy of Keo Xiong, MD Middle School Program Coordinator

AALEADers love food. They love to eat food. They love talk about food. They love to cook food. They love to create new food dishes. In AALEAD, we spend a lot of time learning about different cultures and peoples through the foods they eat as well. This week, AALEAD youth at Argyle and Parkland Magnet Middle Schools participated in a career workshop to learn how they can turn their love of food into a career, and how food can bring people of all different backgrounds together.

Each month, AALEADers participate in different career and cultural cooking workshops. This week, we combined our career and cooking workshops into one. AALEAD board member Siu came to programs as a guest speaker and led an engaging workshop for youth about careers in the food service industry. She shared with the youth her upbringing working in her family’s small DC restaurant, her own career paths in and out of food service, and her challenges and successes as a long-time restaurant owner and cook. Like Siu, some youth also help out in their families’ locally-owned restaurants. It was great that these youth could relate to Siu’s story and see how their early experiences working and helping out in a restaurant can help them develop important leadership and job skills for their futures.

Youth then had the opportunity to learn some cooking skills. Siu demonstrated how to make a simple and delicious beef stir-fry. If any of these AALEADers didn’t know how to cook before, now they have one dish they can definitely cook on their own and a set of cooking skills to showcase. Youth also learned how they can create and combine new types of cuisine to reach a broad audience while still incorporating their own personal tastes. For example, owners of food trucks often create their own food dishes and recipes that may fuse together different cultural cuisines, and because they are mobile, can share their food with many people all over the city.

In every part of the world, food seems to always bring people together. This workshop brought together many people, including AALEAD board member, staff, and students; local restaurant owners and families; and youths from different backgrounds. The youth learned a lot as well about the variety of food-related careers they can pursue both in and beyond the food service industry, and how they can tailor these careers to their own interests, skills, and personalities.

Stay tuned for more updates from our next career and cultural cooking workshops. If you would like to volunteer your time to lead a career workshop, or any other educational workshop, for AALEAD youth, please contact Tina Ngo,Mentoring and Volunteer Programs Coordinator at

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