Updated: AUGUST 18, 2017 — 2:56 PM EDT
Damon Roundtree, 18, carefully removed charred skin from a roasted red pepper, slicing it into narrow strips.
That one simple act had ramifications well beyond embellishing a sandwich, which looked delicious: job readiness; opportunities for underemployed city minorities; union growth; union relevance; schools serving communities; employer savings on training; plus a crew of cooks, servers, bartenders, and dishwashers ready to work at a new Philadelphia International Airport restaurant.
Lots loaded onto that sandwich.
“To me, it’s a new start,” Roundtree said this week. As a teenager, he got into trouble. As a young father-to-be, he wants a career built on his passion for cooking. “It’s fun. It tastes good, and it keeps me occupied.”
On Tuesday, 75 graduates of the first class of the Unite Here Philadelphia Hospitality Academy will be honored at City Hall. Students range in age and capability from recent high school graduates such as Roundtree, a novice, to longtime chef and manager Anthony Cunningham, 53, who was laid off from his job at a Japanese restaurant in June.
“I’ve put in resumes, but I can’t afford to wait for a vacancy,” Cunningham said.