Who we are
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RISE Culinary Institute's mission is to transform lives by equipping our community's refugees with culinary skills, nutrition education, and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential. We focus on providing the required training for a successful entry into the culinary industry throughout Utah to ensure a more successful future for our trainees.
Who we serve
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RISE Culinary Institute's mission is to transform lives by equipping our community's refugees with culinary skills, nutrition education and employment opportunities to help them achieve their full potential. We focus on providing the required training for a successful entry into the culinary industry throughout Utah to ensure a more successful future for our trainees.
What we do
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RISE provides hands on culinary training and a paid internship for refugees which includes 3-months of curriculum programming and 6-months of paid internship at our partner restaurants. The trainees work their way through all areas of a restaurant, learning employment, social skills and life skills. Case management works to round out the ecosystem of support including; ESL education, nutrition education, educational assistance and career exploration.
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Our office and kitchen space for training is on 2100 S and 500 E to conduct all training activities and programming. This location is central to where the majority of the refugee population lives and easily accessible by public transportation.

Get to know us

Lavanya Mahate
Lavanya Mahate is a restaurateur/chef, and founder of RISE Culinary Institute, a non-profit devoted to providing free culinary training to refugees in the State of Utah. A first generation Indian American immigrant she is also the first female entrepreneur on both sides of her Indian ancestry and is passionate about ending the suppression of potential amongst women globally.
Chef Sarah Patino
Program Director

With a career spanning nearly three decades, Chef Sarah Patino has established herself as a leading figure in the culinary world. Her passion for food, ignited at a young age in her grandmother’s kitchens, blossomed further at Butte Culinary Academy at California State University, Chico.

Sarah has excelled in a variety of culinary roles, from orchestrating grand banquets and leading high-profile catering events to mastering the art of fine dining in renowned restaurants and hotels. Sarah’s passion for food transcends borders. While she embraces a variety of international cuisines, her heart holds a special place for the warmth of the Mediterranean and the bold flavors of Argentina.

A testament to her exceptional talent, Sarah has had the privilege of cooking for a distinguished clientele, including US Presidents, NBA All-Stars, athletes, Olympians, Grammy Award-winning musicians, screen actors, high-ranking military personnel, politicians, religious leaders, and esteemed dignitaries. Her ability to create unforgettable dining experiences has earned her a place among the most sought-after chefs.

Beyond the professional realm lies another testament to Sarah’s dedication – her family. As a wife of over two decades and a mother six children she exemplifies the art of balancing a demanding career with a rich family life. Sarah’s family journey has seen her evolve from the “minivan soccer mom” to a dedicated supporter at wrestling tournaments and a passionate cheerleader during football season. Her love extends beyond her immediate family, embracing bonus children and grandchildren who have become an integral part of her life over the years.

Actively sharing her knowledge as an instructor and public speaker, Sarah inspires women and future generations of chefs. Her commitment to her community extends beyond the kitchen. When she’s not conquering culinary challenges, Sarah finds joy in giving back. She volunteers with local youth and at ultra running events, fostering a love for the outdoors, sportsmanship and the values of dedication and perseverance – qualities that fuel her success both in the kitchen and at home.

Board Members

Jeffrey Coker

Chef Coker is Associate Dean, Culinary Arts, SLCC, and an active member of the American Culinary Federation. He is also actively involved in working with high school students and serves on the advisory board for Nutrition and Foods at Granite Technical Institute as well as serving as a mentor and judge for the Utah State ProStart organization through the Utah Restaurant Association.

Pualei Lynn

 Pualei Lynn, Program Director at RISE is also the owner of EDYNKEI Boutique & Event Space, and the Founder of ELEVATE Women’s Group. Pualei believes strongly in community & service, and is honored to bring her talents, network & skills to help further the mission of RISE.

Asha Parekh

 Asha Parekh currently serves as the Director of the Survivor and Victim Services Division within the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office. The Division is comprised of Salt Lake County Children’s Justice Centers, Survivor and Victim Services Program that provides support and accompaniment to Victims of crime in the complex criminal justice system and Camp HOPE, a program for children who have experienced trauma. Asha was appointed by the Governor to become Director of the Refugee Services Office within the Department of Workforce Services for the state of Utah. During her tenure she started the Utah Refugee Center, a unique public private partnership that provides employment support and offers community space to build refugee community capacity in Utah. Asha also started the Salt Lake Area Family Justice Center at the YWCA Utah in 2007 to better assist victims of violence in one location. In 2021 Asha was selected as Utah Businesswoman of the Year. She serves on the United Way Board and the RISE Board.

Naja Lockwood

Naja Lockwood- Naja has executive produced multiple documentary and narrative films focusing on social justice issues including Try Harder!, Coming Home Again, Gook and Cries From Syria. In 2020, Naja executive produced 76 Days directed by Hao Wu, revolving around the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. The film won a Peabody Award and a Primetime Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking. Naja is the founder of RYSE Media Ventures, which both supports stories of diverse voices, and an investor in Impact Partners Films, which has financed the Academy Award winning documentary, Icarus as well as Won’t You Be My Neighbor and Audrie and Daisy. Born in Vietnam, Naja immigrated to Massachusetts during the Fall of Saigon. As a refugee, Naja continues to advocate for immigrants from her undergraduate years to her current work with the Governor’s Workforce Services. She serves on the Committee for Ethnic Studies and Asian American Studies at Harvard University and The Coalition for Diverse Harvard. She is the Founder and CEO of Naja Lockwood Designs to support female artisans of Southeast Asia. Throughout Naja’s life, there has always been a commitment to social justice and making sure the voices of the under-represented, the minority and the oppressed are heard.

Loren Micalizio

 Loren Micalizio is Executive Video Producer on the creative Studio team at Adobe. Loren honed her documentary production chops at 21st Century Fox, Lucasfilm, and Zoetrope before moving to Utah fifteen years ago to freelance in feature films and television. She is passionate about telling dynamic and engaging visual stories and jumps at the chance to create films to inspire and move.

Rachelle Pace

Rachelle Pace Castor, mother, grandmother, author, and early childhood educator has worked a lifetime to bring forward the invisible and powerful world of the inner self. She works with foster children and families, educators, refugees and those healing from abuse. Her deepest belief is that we can turn struggles into strengths and debilitating traps into tools for growth, creativity, and wisdom. Rachelle has written many books for children, families, and educators. She has received a number of awards for her books. She also produces tools of hope for humanity “If we can help children remember their intrinsic value and infinite worth and give them tools to process their dark thoughts and heavy feelings, we can help them build resilience and a feeling of belonging. Awakening individuals to their inborn powers gives them the catalyst they need to move out of painful confusion and into light and hope.”

Garland Ledbetter

Garland Ledbetter’s great love for Utah and the beautiful mountains is something that he has drawn inspiration from in starting his coffee roasting company and shop Kings Peak Coffee. He is passionate about coffee and ensures that his employees are trained in all aspects of coffee to engage with customers in an authentic way.

Community Events

RISE hosts culinary tasting events, allowing refugees to celebrate and share their heritage and culture. The kitchen provides refugees an avenue to prepare food and engage with their community, as well as provide an avenue for the mainstream community to learn about what the various refugee cultures offer.

Promoting Social Awareness

The dual ability of food to help bond with their new country, while maintaining a connection with home, will benefit our students to share their stories in an effective manner. We feature our students and program by telling their stories whether it is to promote the catering or the tasting events.

We also spread awareness about the geopolitical realities that contributed to the creation of their refugee status. Oftentimes the larger community sees refugees as poor people rather than people who have been displaced, dispossessed and made poor by political and economic chaos in the countries they hail from. Our marketing initiatives bring some long-term point of view of who these people are and where they are coming from and not just be targets of our pity.

Self-sustaining Funding

RISE is sustainable by generating income through:
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