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Miami Hotels Need Cooks, Overtown Residents Need Jobs. A New Program Is Changing That.

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Emily Michot
/
Miami Herald
Michelle Phillips walks through her Overtown neighborhood on her way to one of her final days of classes at the Hospitality Education Advancement Training center at the Overtown Performing Arts Center kitchen.

Michelle Phillips, 32, beamed at the Fontainebleau Resort Miami Beach hotel business card resting between her thumb and index finger. It meant that she was one step closer to working as a hotel cook.

Every day for the last eight weeks, Phillips has risen at 6:30 a.m., roused her two kids, buttoned up her white chef’s coat and headed out the door of their cramped Overtown apartment. Neighbors along her 10-block walk to the Overtown Performing Arts Center wish her well. Some ask about her husband, who’s been in the hospital recovering from a heart attack. That was a shock — but she’s had the welcome disruption of the Hospitality Employees Advancement and Training (HEAT) program to keep her busy.

Before she was accepted into the training program, Phillips worked an hourly job as a dishwasher and line cook at a breakfast restaurant making $11 an hour. Now, some of Miami’s most prominent hotels are considering her and nine others from City of Miami’s District Five — comprising Overtown, Liberty City, Little Haiti, and Allapattah — for full time, $15 an hour cook jobs with benefits and paid time off.

Read more from our news partner, The Miami Herald.