About Us

STEP is a 501(c)3 organization that provides frontline hospitality workers with access to free skills training, helping them move into and up culinary job ladders, while supporting employer partners in their goal of providing excellent service to their customers and clients.

Our mission is to invest in the skills of food service and hospitality workers.

STEP is a partnership of UNITE HERE Local 23, the area’s leading food service and hospitality union, and its partner food service employers, companies like Sodexo, Aramark, Compass USA, and I.L. Creations.

Through our free training programs, we build pathways into unionized food service jobs and up career ladders, allowing workers to support themselves and their families with dignity.

There are tens of thousands of hard-working food service and hospitality employees in the DC metropolitan region.  Unfortunately, they are often regarded as low-skill workers, and are seen as easily replaceable.  Many are people of color and/or immigrants who earn the minimum wage, lack job security, and have limited opportunities for advancement.  This is unacceptable.  

STEP is committed to revaluing these jobs through training and skill development.  We offer free classes to UNITE HERE Local 23 union members who are seeking advancement and learning opportunities, as well as “Job Seekers” classes for community members throughout the DC area who could benefit from a union job.

Jobs With Dignity

We believe that all hospitality and food service workers are skilled.  From dishwasher to lead cook, they deserve recognition for the hard work that they do.

STEP’s partners provide honest wages, good benefits, and invest in their workers’ skill development.

Community Partnerships

STEP accepts referrals into its Job Seekers programs from local refugee support groups, English language schools, work readiness programs, and vocational counselors.

We work side by side with these organizations to ensure our students’ continued success.

Industry Excellence

The Washington, DC area has one of the most exciting culinary scenes in the country.

We are proud to contribute to this local culture through our high standards, industry partnerships, and wonderful students.

Our Story

STEP grew out of a scholarship fund that UNITE HERE and employers had created to help defray the costs of post-secondary education for union members and their dependents.

In 2015, faced with changing culinary demands from customers, and looking for a way to further support members, their families, and communities, the STEP Fund decided to expand its programs to include skill development and job training.

STEP still provides scholarships, but over the past few years we have grown to include:

  • Culinary classes for the advancement of union members
  • Job Seeker classes for under-employed community members seeking union jobs in the food service industry
  • English classes for speakers of other languages
  • Computer classes
  • Leadership and customer service workshops

The Team

We have over 50 years combined experience in Education, Hospitality, and the Culinary Arts.  Each of us brings a unique perspective to STEP, but together we are committed to the mission and growth of the fund and to the continued success of each of our students.

Amelia Kalant

Amelia Kalant


Scott Ulen

Scott Ulen

Chef Instructor

Claire Kevill

Claire Kevill

Lead Hospitality and English Instructor

Industry Partners

Compass Group
Bon Appetit
Restaurant Associates
Fame / Unidine
IL Creations
Starr Catering