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New Milford culinary school plans move to Pettibone community center

September 27, 2017

NEW MILFORD — The Community Culinary School of Northwest Connecticut, stationed in a church kitchen for the past decade, is eyeing a move to the new John Pettibone Community Center.

School and town officials earlier this week pitched the idea to Town Council members, who unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding between the town and the nonprofit to relocate to the center. The school’s move still needs Zoning Commission approval.

The school, a nonprofit job-placement program that offers 12-week courses to unemployed or underemployed people interested in the food trade, sprang from an “a-ha moment” ten years ago, said Executive Director Dawn Hammacott.

Hammacott, who had recently sold her bakery, helped found the school after she and town Social Services Director Peg Molina read about similar programs in other cities, Hammacott said.

Since August 2007, the school has run several sessions a year from the kitchen at St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The school has graduated 256 people, has a 96 percent job-placement rate and has donated 83,000 prepared meals to the local food bank, Hammacott said.

“The move will insure the sustainability of our program,”she said. “We would have a dedicated classroom and office space,” she said. The church has been a great home for the school, she added, “but we have outgrown it.”

Mayor David Gronbach said Pettibone will be a good fit.

“New Milford and the Culinary School have always been partners, and this is another partnership to allow them to grow and do more for the school, community and town,” Gronbach said.

Pettibone also offers a larger kitchen, which will allow the school to expand its catering business and offset costs, said Mike Nahom, the school’s president.

Tuition costs $4,000 for the course, and most students get assistance from the school. Some federal help is also available.

Before the vote, Town Council members said the school has been a great asset to the town. Council member Tom Esposito said he had seen the program help students find or change careers.

Approving the memorandum of understanding, which ensures that the school can be in the community center for the next 15 years, was the first step in the move, said Nahom. The school will pay the town $1,500 a month to rent the space, the same amount it pays St. John’s.

Nahom said the school hopes to move to Pettibone next summer.

blytton@hearstmediact.com; 203-731-3411; @bglytton

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