ASBURY PARK - The Kula Café in Asbury Park is not just well-known for its breakfast potatoes and turkey burgers, but for matching up well-deserving potential employees with great jobs.
Founder Roger Boyce noticed a problem in his community, and says that as a lifelong entrepreneur, he wanted to solve it.
"There's a need for really great employees in the restaurants in town," Boyce says. "And there's a profound need for young folks in this neighborhood who want to work, but don't have education, job experience or skills to go after those jobs."
With donations, grant funding and a lot of hard work, Boyce and his partners shaped the idea for a training cafe.
The cafe then pays the students to do an internship at one of the Asbury Park restaurants with the goal they'll be hired permanently.
Raequan Bowens is about halfway through his time at the Kula Café, and says he already knows he'll leave a different person. "They give you direction, and guidance, that a lot of people around here don't have from parents,” he says.
Boyce says the program has already had some success stories. "One of our first graduates got a job with a really high-end restaurant in town as a food runner," he says.
Trainee Tariq Burrus says it feels good to have people cheering him on. "This actually gives us a job, gives us a chance, and they actually do believe in us," Burrus says.
"You get a chance to get into a corporate business," Bowens adds. "And you start from step one, to next thing you know, maybe you're the chef now."
Boyce says he's hoping to continue to grow the program, which lasts 16 weeks for each trainee and ends with the paid internship.
The cafe also distributes food to the hungry weekly and hosts jazz nights with local musicians.