Coast’s Culinary Skills Training Program – A recipe for recovery

Coast’s Culinary Skills Training Program accepts ongoing applicants for the Spring, Summer and Fall cohorts. The program gives youth (between the ages of 19 and 30) recovering from mental illness or with other barriers training, mental health coaching and work experience so they can pursue a career or further education in the culinary field. Supported entirely by philanthropic funding, the program consists of a four-month culinary training program, which includes nine-weeks (up to a maximum of 18-weeks) of paid work experience at Coast’s Social Crust Cafe.

Read Charlie’s story below to find out how the program is changing youths’ lives.

Back when Charlie first started the Culinary Skills Training Program after mental illness disrupted their first year of university, they needed more than an education. Yes, they. Charlie is non-binary. That means that Charlie identifies as neither exclusively female nor male.

What Charlie needed was hope – hope that recovery was possible – and the support to make recovery a reality.

The Culinary Skills Training Program offered Charlie both. Best of all, Charlie already had an interest in cooking.

“Cooking was the only thing I was doing when I wasn’t leaving the house because my dad would come home from work and I’d think, I’d better be awake or else he’s going to be, like, Charlie, what are you doing?” they laugh. “So we’d make dinner together and I’d be like, erm, yeah, I’ve been awake since noon.”

Charlie first encountered mental illness when they started university. Faced with a heavy course load and financial worries, depression and anxiety escalated so quickly that they couldn’t complete the first semester. Depression had dug its claws in so deep that Charlie couldn’t imagine it could be overcome.




“At first it was really stressful because I wanted to get everything perfect. I wanted to impress everyone so when I made a mistake, I was, like, it’s the end of the world,” Charlie laughs.

“My occupational therapist recommended the program to me and I knew I needed something to get me out of the house. Otherwise, I would have just stayed in that funk for the rest of my life. It was like that,” Charlie says.

For Charlie, it’s the wrap-around mental health support Coast offers along with culinary skills training that made the difference.

“Every Friday at the beginning of training, we learned about mental health, coping strategies and stuff like that,” Charlie says.

When Charlie progressed from training to the practicum in the cafe, having those supports and coping skills became even more important. “At first it was really stressful because I wanted to get everything perfect. I wanted to impress everyone so when I made a mistake, I was, like, it’s the end of the world,” Charlie laughs.

Charlie has since graduated from the Culinary Skills program and is fulfilling their passion for pastry by working part-time and apprenticing under a pastry-chef owner of a renowned pie shop in Yaletown.

For Charlie, the Culinary Skills program kick-started recovery from years of depression. Today, they are so much more than someone with lived experience of mental illness. Charlie’s someone with a brighter future.

For more information, contact Margaret Davies, Red Seal, Culinary Skills Manager, by email or by phone at 604.838.3533.

Download an application form here.
Download the program curriculum here.

Recent News


Your donation to Coast Mental Health Foundation provides essential housing, support, and employment services for people with mental illness so they can find their meaningful place in our community – a place to live, a place to connect, and a place to work.



* indicates required

We take your privacy seriously and will carefully protect your email address.