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Culinary interns cook up lively palate

By Jennifer Riley

Oct. 2, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Only weeks ago, Rabih Nabahani stood without direction as she
waited in line to file for unemployment. Today, she is scheduled to
graduate from a culinary trade school with an internship in the
UCLA Medical Center’s cafeteria behind her.

After losing her job in the travel industry, Nabahani
“didn’t know what was going to come next.”

“I was waiting in the unemployment line when I saw a flyer
for Saint Joseph’s Culinary Training Program. I have always
loved cooking, so I signed up for the 10-week program,”
Nabahani said.

The program includes six weeks of basic training and a four-week
internship in food preparation and service.

Interns are provided with the background and skills necessary to
find jobs in restaurants, hotels and hospitals, said Mark Dyball,
executive chef of the Westwood and Santa Monica medical
centers’ department of nutrition.

“It is a great program for unemployed people to get a
taste of the food industry. Rabih had all her avenues closed off,
but this program gave her redirection,” said Dyball.

The collaboration between Saint Joseph’s and UCLA began in
August, when Saint Joseph’s requested that Dyball allow
students in the program to intern at the medical center’s
nutrition department and cafeteria.

“This is just one of many programs that we take part in,
and Rabih’s story is inspirational,” said Rachel
Champeau, spokeswoman for the medical center.  

Dyball said interns come to him with basic training in sanitary
cooking, safety, and what he termed “knife skills.”

“I teach them based on what I feel they are ready for.
Nabahani had so much ambition that I kept giving her more to
handle,” he said.

In fact, Dyball made Nabahani responsible for directing
preparation of Lebanese cuisine, which she introduced to the menu
of the cafeteria’s international corner.

Presenting a variety of food ranging from Farouj Meshwe (roasted
Lebanese chicken) to Baba Ganouj (eggplant spread), Nabahani said
what she likes about the job is that she can make everything from
scratch.

“It is like cooking at my home, and it is all very good
and nutritional,” she said, as a server came into the kitchen
announcing that Nabahani’s lamb shish kabobs were sold
out.

Dyball said he likes having food from different cultures
available to the cafeteria’s many diners, who purchase a
total of 7,000 meals on an average day.

Every day, the menu offers a different ethnic food, ranging from
Japanese to Mexican. Lebanese style food is prepared on Wednesdays,
with Nabahani in charge.

“The best part of working here is that I get to cook food
from my own heritage,” she said.

Nabahani said that during her internship she has been working
four-hour shifts every weekday

Though this week concludes her internship as well as her
culinary training program, Nabahani has just begun her work in the
kitchen.

Soon after starting the program, she decided to begin training
as a chef. Nabahani is currently enrolled in the Los Angeles Trade
Technical Community College, where she is pursuing a career in the
culinary arts.

Nabahani is also considering pursuing an employment opportunity
at the UCLA Medical Center cafeteria.

“This program has really opened a lot of doors for Rabih,
and given her the direction she needed in her career,” Dyball
said.

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Jennifer Riley
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