scott miller

Chef Ron Ahlert

scott miller
Chef Ron Ahlert

Story: Abby Ogunbekun  Photo: Drew White

The head of Community Culinary School of Charlotte, as well as head of the kitchen, is Chef Ron Ahlert, and the enrollment standards for his program are not like other culinary schools.

The Community Culinary School exists for individuals who need a second chance, and who have been hindered in finding employment, whether by drug and alcohol addiction or incarceration.

Chef Ron, the school’s executive director, has been a leader and a mentor for the classes that come through the kitchen as well as doing so much good for our city.

Instead of using control or fear of consequences to keep the students in line, Chef Ron focuses on two kinds of loyalty: loyalty to the profession, and loyalty to the place of business they are placed in following graduation.

In short, it's a school that focuses not only on people's talents, but people's needs.

The Community Culinary School of Charlotte started small. In 1997, there was a brand new kitchen that wasn't in use and a local food pantry that had provisions going to waste daily. Through combined efforts of community members, these separate factors were combined into a concentrated effort to meet several needs of a community.

The operational costs of the school are met through grants and gifts given through local organizations, businesses, and private donors. In 2015, the school was the North Carolina winner of Tom’s of Maine “50 States for Good,” earning $20,000 in funding.

In lieu of tuition, students provide staffing for Friendship Trays, a local nonprofit, to prepare meals and take them to a local men’s shelter. This partnership not only gives students practice environments to work on their culinary skills, but it fulfills a need in their community that they are thoroughly equipped to meet.

The school also operates a cafe 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday to Friday, with dinner 5:30-7:70 p.m. Wednesday-Thursday at 9315-D Monroe Road, as well as offering catering and corporate team-building classes.

By giving individuals a chance at employment that they may not otherwise get, the Community Culinary School of Charlotte is able to help feed those in need by equipping these individuals with skills to not only meet this need, but help shape and enrich students’ futures.