Ric Watson began working as a dishwasher as a teenager, battling addiction, and living on the street, when someone gave him a chance. Eventually, Watson became Chef and Director of Food Services at Ottawa Mission, and 16 years ago he started a food services training program in the mission’s kitchen to give others a similar opportunity to turn their lives around.
Their first graduating class consisted of five men, but the program has grown to graduate 20-25 students every year, with 90 percent of them finding jobs in the food-service industry. Having outgrown their kitchen space at the mission, Watson and Ottawa Mission CEO Peter Tilley started looking for another location to run the program.
Through various serendipitous connections, they were offered a $10 per year, seven-year lease at a beloved family bakery that had closed down after serving the downtown community for many years. The Ottawa Mission’s new food services training facility will offer three five-month training programs per year, accommodating 25 students per class. The renovation has begun with plans to open in May 2021. It will also feature a storefront, and serve breakfast and lunch specials, as well as prepared take-out meals.