Employees who ate at the International Corner in UCLA Medical Center’s cafeteria this fall may have been lucky enough to feast on authentic Lebanese cuisine, created from Rabih Nabahani’s own recipes.
Luck also had something to do with how Nabahani, 41, found her way from an unemployment line in Santa Monica to the hospital cafeteria’s kitchen.
Two months ago while waiting in line, she spied a flyer posted on a wall about a culinary training program to help unemployed adults. Worn down by years of job instability in the airline and travel industries, she was ready to give it a try.
After calling the number on the flyer, Nabahani joined the 10-week, Venice-based Saint Joseph Center Culinary Training Program, an intensive course where participants learn all facets of food handling, service and safety to prepare them for food-service jobs.
Starting last August, both UCLA and Santa Monica-UCLA medical centers became training grounds for the program. Learning everything about food preparation, four interns have graduated from UCLA so far and two have been hired.
“This is part of our community outreach,” said UCLA Medical Center’s Executive Chef Mark Dyball. “It’s one way we can really help someone and also give back to our community.”
Said St. Joseph’s coordinator Thomasine Howlett: “We find that building a bridge between UCLA and St. Joseph really gives our interns invaluable experience and more leverage in the job market after they graduate.”
Last September, Nabahani interned on campus at the Nutrition Department and the hospital cafeteria, where she so impressed Dyball that he asked her to prepare dishes from her Lebanese heritage. She has since graduated from the program and is attending Los Angeles Trade Tech Culinary School to become a chef.
“I feel so fortunate. I’m finally pursuing my true calling in life,” Nabahani said.