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Job Corps students learn culinary skills

RONAN – As Joseph Martinez rested in a hospital bed recovering from alcohol poisoning, he thought there had to be something better he could do with his life. 

“It scared the h--- out of me,” he said about coming close to death.

He decided he’d had enough near death experiences, including being shot at by rival gang members in his hometown in Colorado. With that thought, he ended up at Kicking Horse Job Corps as a culinary student. 

“I came to Montana to find calm and quiet,” he said. “I needed to better myself. I was tired of constantly thinking ‘I don’t want my family hurt.’ Lots of kids here got on that negative road and come back from it.”

Last week, Joseph, 20, used the chopping skills he acquired in the past six months at Job Corps to quickly mince fresh parsley, which he said was a much calmer task than anything in his former life. He picked up the chopped green herbs with the edge of his knife and added them to a large chrome mixing bowl full of pork sausage.

Culinary instructor and business owner Bill Stoianoff explained the sausage making process to Joseph and a group of Job Corps students while wearing an apron and what one student called a Picasso-style beret. The lesson was a thank you gift to the center for providing him with a workforce.

“I get a dependable workforce and they learn a trade,” Stoianoff said.

Lisa Pourier, 20, from South Dakota, is part of the workforce helping Stoianoff make about 180 pounds of sausage a couple times a week that he will later sell in his Missoula store. She stepped in to help show the class how to quickly twist the sausage into links. 

“You get faster with practice,” she said. 

She hopes to find advanced culinary training after graduating from Job Corps. While in the program, she’s gotten a driver’s license and a General Education Diploma. She also took CPR because “you never know what might happen in the kitchen.”

Good sausage, Stoianoff explained to the class, requires fresh ingredients.

“Sausage was originally done to take care of the leftovers, but I want better quality. No additives, low salt and no rude parts: no noses, ‘toeses’ or roses,” he said. “Making sausage is an art form for the taste buds. When you bite into it, you have different flavors that come on.” 

“It’s the bomb,” student Tony Sainz replied after tasting a bite of the cooked sausage to make sure it didn’t need any extra spices.

Stoianoff learned to make sausage 25 years ago.

“I went to Louisiana and got a lesson,” he said. “I wanted to be able to control what’s in it.”

He makes sausage in Ronan where he can use the USDA certified facilities available at Mission Mountain Food Enterprise Center. The students travel from Job Corps to the facility where they learn different culinary skills.

“It’s a win-win situation,” he said. 

Stoianoff customized a recipe for the students at Job Corps so they can continue making sausage. 

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