In 1996, Lesley and David Cohn co-founded the Garfield High School Foundation and the culinary arts program — featuring a $2 million state-of-the-art kitchen, serving line and lecture center — that has graduated 2,000 at-risk youth to date.
Teenage students that are considered high risk for dropping out learn culinary skills to prepare them for future careers in the restaurant industry. The foundation’s annual Thanksgiving fundraising luncheon, run by the students under the guidance of Cohn Restaurant Group’s chefs, has raised more than $300,000 over the past 16 years to benefit the program and staff have volunteered more than 4,000 hours.
The Foundation’s Restaurant Neighbor Award, developed in partnership with American Express, celebrates the outstanding charitable service performed by restaurant operators. Created 16 years ago, this award recognizes the impact restaurants and entrepreneurs have made on their local communities.
In recognizing the Cohns, Rob Gifford, executive vice president of strategic operations and philanthropy for the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation said programs like the Cohns at Garfield provide upward mobility for Americans.
“The restaurant industry has provided opportunities for millions of people throughout the U.S. and the recipients of the 2014 Restaurant Neighbor and Faces of Diversity awards demonstrate the incredible opportunities they have been able to create as a result of working in it,” said Gifford. “We are proud to recognize the achievements of these seven national award winners, selected from a pool of hundreds of operators from around the country. Their dedication to the industry and commitment to achieving their dreams is truly exceptional.”
To find out more about the culinary program at Garfield High School, contact the school at (619) 362-4500