Changemakers: Teaching Young People a Recipe for Success in the Restaurant Industry

This founder’s culinary nonprofit aims to help struggling young people find their footing personally and professionally.

May 13, 2024

| by Kelsey Doyle

“It was food that brought us together every evening,” recalls Kate Rogers Mery de Bellegarde, MS ’21, reflecting on her childhood in a family of seven siblings. Those memories sitting around the dinner table laid the foundation for her belief in “the healing power, the magic, and the community of food.”

Changemakers

In this ongoing video series, we showcase Stanford GSB alumni who are striving to change lives, organizations, and the world.

That belief is the driving force behind Sprouts Chef Training, a nonprofit empowering youth to lead successful lives by teaching them how to cook alongside chefs at restaurants across the San Francisco Bay Area. “We take a young adult who [is] struggling, and the goal is that they learn everything they need to know to land their very first job in the restaurant industry and to stabilize,” Kate says.

Kate’s inspiration to start Sprouts came from her brother’s turbulent experiences as he was growing up. “One of my siblings was really struggling with emotional and legal matters,” she says. “For him, it was structure and a job that really helped that transition from struggling and difficulty to thriving and excelling.” As Sprouts’ founder and executive director, Kate aims to help other vulnerable young people forge that same pathway to opportunity.

In the MSx program at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Kate expanded her vision, exploring how Sprouts’s programs could achieve impact beyond the local level. “The MSx program helped me understand my potential and how I can… take this to the thousands, to one day, the millions,” she says.

Within a decade, Kate hopes to see Sprouts expand to major cities nationwide, uniting chefs, donors, and programs serving young people. “We have an incredibly simple, sustainable model,” she says. “When you have all of these partners together, you have a win-win for everyone involved.”

Full Transcript

Note: Transcripts are generated by machine and lightly edited by humans. They may contain errors.

Roland Passat: Guys, it’s showtime. Now, let’s talk about what we’re going to do.

Kate Rogers Mery de Bellegarde: I think that one of Sprout’s true reasons for success is this ability to communicate through Food. Forge community, through food, inspire people to give through food. We’re a family of seven siblings and it was food that brought us together every evening. I think that the healing power and the magic and the community of food started with those experiences when I was really young.

Katelyn Neroza: I think right when I went through the door, it was just almost like home.

Roland Passat: Mentorship is important in Sprout. I think what’s great what Sprout does is really to give an opportunity and a second chance to many of those youth.

Kate Rogers Mery de Bellegarde: We take a young adult, 16 to 24 years old who are struggling with behavior, with high school dropout, with violence, with drug use, whatever it might be. The goal is that they learn everything they need to know to land their very first job in the restaurant industry and to stabilize.

Katie Reicher: It’s a great opportunity to learn basic skills so that it evens the playing fields when they are looking for a job later on in their careers.

Diego Jimenez: I actually got an interview at another restaurant in San Francisco, so I’m looking forward to really get into the chef career and see what I could do with it and see how far I could go with it.

Gedion Bolio: My main goal for this, I want to really learn how to make food and just present it to my family, really have that validation from them.

Kate Rogers Mery de Bellegarde: One of my siblings was really struggling with emotional and legal matters. And for him it was structure and it was a job that really helped that transition from struggling and difficulty to thriving and excelling. And I knew that when I was starting Sprout Chef training program that I wanted to give that same opportunity to find and claim your value that my brother did.

Katelyn Neroza: I think it gave me more stability. I just found my voice again, found like, oh, if I have the stability, if I know these people, I can figure out who I am as a young adult.

Kate Rogers Mery de Bellegarde: It’s not just a friendship, it’s like, as you said, I’ve got you. Like I’m going to help you get to the next step.

The MSx program at Stanford University really helped me understand what my potential is and how I can leverage certain assets and certain talent and resources in the community to not just impact a few dozen youth locally, but to really take this to the thousands, to one day, the millions. And be able to set up this model all across the country. Easily 10 years from now, we can see ourselves set up in every major hub in the United States.

We have an incredibly simple, sustainable model. We’re working with youth support programs who need to find opportunities, meaningful opportunities for their youth. We’re working with chefs who need to find passionate, qualified workers, and we’re working with donors and corporate sponsors who are looking for an outlet to give back. And so when you have all of these partners together, you have a win-win for everyone involved, and it makes scaling to a new city that much easier here.

I think that it’s human nature to want to be part of something larger than yourself. It’s leveraging those people around you who also want to be part of the vision and also want to be part of something that’s larger than themselves. And those two elements together, the impact and the community keep me waking up with a smile every single day of my life. My name is Kate Rogers Mery de Bellegarde, and I’m the executive director and founder of Sprouts Chef Training Program.

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