Sprouts intern Fayth Bishop, center, and her chef mentors, William Krupp, left, and Hubert Bongbonga. (Image credit: Keith Uyeda)

On a recent afternoon in the bustling kitchen of Residential & Dining Enterprises’ (R&DE) Ricker Dining Hall, aspiring chef Fayth Bishop, 19, honed her knife and cutting skills while chopping carrots and peppers. Weeks of practice paid off; she noticed a significant improvement in the quality of the food she prepared.

“My vegetables come out sharper and I finish prepping them much faster,” she said.

For nine weeks last fall, Bishop was a culinary intern with Stanford Dining, Hospitality & Auxiliaries (SDHA), where she learned how to properly handle knives, clean and cut poultry, roast vegetables, grill, sauté, and filet, prepare various dishes like salads, and learned about food allergens and how to navigate a professional kitchen.

“It’s been a really good experience,” she said. “I’ve learned a lot, including new cooking techniques.”

Bishop’s internship with SDHA (part of R&DE) was facilitated by the nonprofit Sprouts, which connects young people experiencing hardship and interested in developing culinary skills with paid, part-time work in professional kitchens. The program is proving successful as Sprouts interns land job offers and launch culinary careers – including at Stanford.

Sprouts at Stanford

Sprouts was founded in 2006 to teach children the basics of cooking. In 2012, it incorporated a chef training program that connects young adults with opportunities to learn culinary skills.

Founder Kate Rogers is an alumnus of the Stanford Graduate School of Business MSx program where she worked closely with her professors to improve and grow the organization. She said it quickly scaled from 20 chef trainees a year to 50, with 75 projected this year, 140 in 2025, and 200 in 2026. To date, Sprouts has graduated 120 aspiring chefs from its training program and it currently works with more than 50 restaurants and organizations.

“A host partner could be a mom-and-pop restaurant, it could be a Michelin-star restaurant, or it could be a large institution like Stanford,” Rogers said. “And we’re really excited about the Stanford partnership because it’s our first pilot at a university that allows us to prove the scalability of our programming.”

SDHA welcomed six Sprouts interns to campus for the first time fall quarter and a second cohort this quarter. Interns are assigned to a dining hall and work under the guidance of Stanford’s professional executive chefs. Over two or three months, they learn about many aspects of the culinary profession, including food safety and sanitation procedures and basic cooking principles and techniques. In addition to working in Stanford’s dining halls, Sprouts interns can also work at catered events across campus.

“I’ve worked two food events at the O’Donohue Family Stanford Educational Farm,” Bishop said. “For the first event, I learned how to ferment foods, like kimchi. For the second event, I created charcuterie boards.”

Amanda Gotthold is the SDHA operational training & development manager. She said Stanford Dining’s chef mentors work closely with interns, guiding the development of their cooking skills, helping them navigate kitchens, and teaching them about the culinary business.

“Our chefs help them understand what it means to be in the industry and what they may come up against by sharing their challenges and experiences while providing support,” Gotthold said.

Supporting local youth

Sprouts interns are high school or college students or young people simultaneously pursuing other opportunities as they grow their careers. Bishop is an undergraduate student at San Francisco State University where she majors in communication and minors in business. She grew up in Oakland and frequently took care of her family, including cooking, which she enjoyed. A high school counselor connected her to Sprouts, which she said has been beneficial to her education and training. She hopes to one day be a head chef or own a restaurant.

“The things that I take from here will help me in the future,” she said. “Knowing how to run a restaurant, be in charge of a team, or knowing about food safety – I’ve learned about a lot of that here.”

Bishop’s internship ended in December, and she accepted an offer to continue the role part-time in SDHA.

The Sprouts chef training program prioritizes young people who have experienced personal or economic hardship, with the hope of helping them build careers and achieve stability and financial autonomy – a mission that Stanford’s R&DE leadership said they can get behind.

“We need to help level the playing field and create new opportunities for these youth, regardless of their circumstances,” said Eric Montell, assistant vice provost for SDHA. “This initiative is more than a culinary training program; it’s a step toward a more equitable and vibrant society where everyone has the opportunity to thrive.”

Shirley J. Everett, senior associate vice provost for Residential & Dining Enterprises and senior adviser to the provost on equity and inclusion, called Sprouts an innovative program and is excited about welcoming its interns to Stanford’s dining halls.

“Our goal is to develop talent and build a pipeline that includes underrepresented communities, to ensure a sustainable future,” she said. “We have enjoyed supporting and getting to know these talented and dynamic young people, who are committed to excellence and who represent the next generation of chefs.”