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From Dishwasher To Chef In One Year

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Francisco Rodriguez, standing in front of his kitchen at Broken Mouth.

Photo: Francisco Rodriguez/IRC

Three years ago, Francisco Rodriguez fled violence in El Salvador to seek asylum in the United States. Arriving in Los Angeles at 18, he dreamed of becoming a chef and opening his own restaurant, knowing full well that the path would not be an easy one. His first step was to turn to the International Rescue Committee in Los Angeles. 

Francisco enrolled in IRC LA’s Early Employment program, where he learned the necessary skills to enter the U.S. job market. Working with Employment Specialist Julianne O’Connor and job placement volunteers Courtnay Robbins Bragnolo and Chelsea Gonzalez, he learned how to write a resume, comport himself in a job interview, and answer potential employers’ concerns about his work authorization (asylees are granted unrestricted work authorization). 

“When I came to IRC I never expected the help they gave me, they guided me step by step how to get a job. They were a vital part of my growth in this new country,” Francisco says of his time.

After two months of applying to countless jobs and attending interviews, Francisco found his very first job: as a dishwasher in a small restaurant in Los Angeles. It wasn’t his dream job, but he worked hard and impressed his managers enough to be rapidly promoted to the position of line cook. Soon after, one of his managers left to start his own restaurant, taking Francisco along as his new chef. 

Today, after months of hard work and long hours, Francisco is finally working full time, with a salary and benefits, on the path to achieving his career goals. 

“Now I have been working here for six months. I still have my plans to achieve my goal to have my own restaurant,” Francisco says. 

Despite his busy work schedule and new responsibilities, he recently joined another of IRC in LA’s programs, Financial Coaching. He is working one-on-one, for one hour a week, with an IRC volunteer financial coach to learn how to build a budget and learn healthy financial practices. Francisco is saving for his first big purchase: a brand new car, and one day, a small business of his own. 

To try some of Francisco’s delicious food, stop by and say hi at his restaurant, Broken Mouth, located in downtown LA. If you would like to hire a refugee and provide a new start for new Americans like Francisco, you can reach out to the IRC in Los Angeles by contacting the Community Relations Manager at rameena.rahman [at] rescue.org