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The CROP Foundation Makes Culinary Careers Possible for Students
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As part of its work with the American Graduate: Getting to Work national initiative, WHRO is highlighting local opportunities for individuals and youth to pursue skilled careers in the Hampton Roads area.

The CROP Foundation is a local nonprofit dedicated to fostering educational and employment opportunities for innovative culinary students through unique culinary events. It was founded in 2014 by Kip Poole, Executive Chef for Virginia Beach Public Schools.

The minimum qualifications to become a chef or a head cook are a high school diploma or equivalent. Many chefs opt to train at a culinary school following high school. According to the U.S. Department of Labor the median pay for a chef or head cook is $45,950 per year.

While the Foundation provides students with partial scholarships to attend culinary schools or four-year colleges, founder Kip Poole has found providing funding for a student to work alongside a master chef in a restaurant can be equally, if not, more beneficial to a student’s ultimate success. He notes, “We’ve seen value in placing students directly to work and learn from local artists, farmers and top chefs. In working in these environments, they are already building their resumes and coming out of the experience debt-free.”

In an example of following this mindset, the CROP Foundation is sending 17-year-old high school student Katelyn Tyer to work alongside top chefs at the highly acclaimed restaurant Plant Food + Wine in Venice, Ca. Restaurant founder and chef Matthew Kenney is heralded as one of the world’s top vegan chefs. Poole explains that in addition to being able to learn directly from a master chef, Katelyn will benefit from being linked to a prominent and highly-regarded restaurant. She should have no problem landing her next job following her placement.

The Foundation hosts student-run events to raise scholarship funds. On Friday, March 8 they successfully held its first fundraiser CROP 101 at the local restaurant, Commune. Student chefs were mentored by Commune Executive Chef Barry Smith in addition to other chefs in the area.

The event was a collaborative effort, students from eight area schools contributed to the evening, doing everything from creating centerpieces to working with local restaurant chefs to prepare the food itself.

Poole is happy to leverage his connections and contacts in the industry to help students pursue their passions in cooking, agriculture and farming if it means he can provide a space and a path for students who may not be interested in traditional career pathways.

For those interested in learning more about the CROP Foundation they may contact Kip directly at To apply for a CROP Foundation Scholarship, visit their website. All scholarship applications are due by May 1.