Barry Berman is an amazing man and a friend. We knew him first as the screenwriter of the wonderful “Benny and Joon,” a wonderful little 1993 movie starring Johnny Depp at his Deppest: quirky and fun-loving. Berman has a wicked sense of humor and so, of course, we became fast friends.
As great as his sense of humor is, though, it’s nothing compared to his sense of humanity. Having become (as a lot of people do) disillusioned with Hollywood, he decided to do something important with his life. While most of us wring our hands about the state of the world, Barry Berman goes about saving it.
In 2009 he thought about people in one of the poorest places in the world. He started Infinity Culinary Training (ICT) in Cape Town, South Africa. Today the school has graduated over 500 chefs, 80% of whom have found regular, sustaining employment.
The school is underwritten mostly by Woolworths, the South African retail chain. (Not the F. W. Woolworth you’re thinking of; they’re long gone from the mortal coil). There are other fancy-clad donors such as Denzel Washington, but funding is ongoing and they’re always looking for money.
The school is unique in the world of culinary institutes. While most cooking schools are quite expensive to attend, tuition at ICT is free to all students. The point of the school is to pull students up from poverty, not keep them there. Additionally the school maintains a life-long connection to its students, helping them to continue to grow professionally as they work in the field.
Each session becomes a family-unit with strong bonds created between students. Nurturing is a big part of the curriculum, with exercises designed to create trust. Watch past the trust fall section. You’ll be amazed.
So far ICT has conducted 34 classes for a total of 551 students. At 80% success rate, that’s over 400 people that have found employment since 2009. It’s a great contribution to a part of the world that needs it. For more information on this amazing school, check out the ICT. And don’t hesitate to do your part.
And now back to our regularly scheduled Dust Nuggets promo.