Agency Spotlight: Cooking up job skills with the Denver Housing Authority

osage cafe_1 osage cafe_2The Osage Cafe, created by the Denver Housing Authority (DHA), prepares youth living in DHA housing for future in culinary industry. 

At the Osage Café in Denver, you can stop by for an egg sandwich for breakfast or a crisp salad for lunch – and help the community grow while you’re at it.

The café is the city’s first community-based culinary training center. Everything’s made by kids ages 16 to 21 through the Denver Housing Authority’s Youth Culinary Academy. Training lasts six to eight weeks and is meant to build experience in preparing healthy menu options. The course is free of charge.

Osage Café has a full breakfast and lunch menu. Local ingredients go into everything on your plate. Some come right from the nearby Mariposa District community gardens. All proceeds are reinvested in operations and youth training.

A few weeks ago, anyone eating at the café got a special treat: a green chile cheeseburger made with the help of chefs from Steubens. Guest chefs from Steubens and Ace, two Denver restaurants, will visit the café once a month to work with the culinary students.

Stella Madrid, Intergovernmental & Community Affairs Officer at the Denver Housing Authority (DHA), said in an email that the program’s a “true collaboration of partners.”

“DHA’s Osage Café is located on the first floor of the award winning Tapiz building which was funded through HUD ARRA and DHA development funds,” Madrid said of the program. “The Osage Café provides an innovative hands-on job skills training program for at-risk youth in the culinary industry.  Ongoing programming is funded through a partnership with the City of Denver’s Youth Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Program, JP Morgan Chase and income from Café sales.”

According to Lynne Picard, Director, Workforce Development & Community Initiatives, “Denver’s youth truly benefit from the committed partnerships by gaining healthy food access, job skills education and job placement opportunities.”

That benefit couldn’t be clearer when you read what the young chefs had to say on,, the project’s webpage.

Zack said in his testimonial that he plans to attend the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts and become an “awesome chef.”

“I come from a family of cooks,” Evan said in a testimonial. “I wanted to follow in my grandfather’s footsteps, but know I am doing things for myself to make my name known in the United States and Canada.”

1 thought on “Agency Spotlight: Cooking up job skills with the Denver Housing Authority

  1. Betsey Martens

    Congratulations to the Denver Housing Authority staff. This innovative program, focusing on positive outcomes and family empowerment, is the kind of work that will re-brand our industry and make us very relevant in our communities.


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