About FoodWorks

FoodWorks is a community-service organization founded on a strong belief in the central role of food in our lives and its power to affect a broad social mission: economic development, job creation, public education, community-building, and skill-sharing. FoodWorks will build and maintain networks in pursuit of this mission, and will support other like-minded food-oriented institutions, economies, ecologies, and entrepreneurs in and around Madison.

Our roots are in entrepreneurship (both in and out of food), small-business, and in the Slow Food movement. We are based in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. FoodWorks is currently volunteer-powered, and started in 2014.

About First Course

"First Course" is our three-week job-training program for professional kitchens, designed to provide un- and under-employed adult students with the basic kitchen skills, confidence, and connections they need to get good jobs in food service. First Course covers cooking skills, knife stills, professional kitchen basics and traditions, food safety, and soft skills like job seeking strategies and interviewing practice. All graduates get a $1000 bonus to incentivize completion and help offset their opportunity cost, and we are committed to guiding all graduates to curated job leads that set them up to pursue their goals and long-term success.

An Open-Source Cook's Curriculum

First Course’s innovative curriculum has been developed in partnership with award-winning regional chefs & kitchen managers, community partners, Slow Food Madison, and an expert from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Education. We'll be open-sourcing this curriculum, making it available for other communities to use it, fork it, translate it, and otherwise tailor it to local needs.

We are currently testing this curriculum—and our model—with four students. The city of Madison has provided partial funding for this test and the reporting that will follow.

Future Plans

We have just finished our second class, graduating 8 students. In 2018 we hope to run at least 3 more classes, and are building capacity to make that happen.

Want to help?

We are currently building capacity: expanding our board, professionalizing, refining our teaching and curriculum, and of course raising funds for operations. If you would like to support our work in training people and finding them dignified work, you can donate online:

Want to TAKE First Course?

First Course is open to anyone, but people who experience un- and under-employment are especially encouraged to apply. We're gearing up to run another class in spring (April or May), but you can sign up here and we'll notify you when you we are accepting applications.

Our Founders

Jonny Hunter

Jonny is co-owner of the Underground Food Collective, which includes the Underground Butcher Shop, Underground Catering, Underground Meats, and the restaurant Forequarter. Hunter was nominated for the James Beard Foundation’s “Best Chef” award in 2015 and 2016. He is also a founding member of the Madison Area Chefs Network (MACN). A nationally-recognized chef, Hunter holds a masters in public policy from UW-Madison and has taught culinary classes at MATC.

Matt Feifarek

Matt, our Executive Director, has more than 20 years of experience as an entrepreneur working in the IT field, building tools for small businesses with web technologies. Since 2004, he has been a leader in the Slow Food movement, both in New York City and Madison.

Chandra Miller Fienen

Chandra has more than ten-years experience in helping entrepreneurs, startups and charitable organizations. An attorney by training, she serves on the Planning Committee for StartingBlock Madison.

Contact Us

vm: 608-957-7330