Here at Curt’s our philosophy is to “dine with purpose”: enjoy great food and help our community at the same time. We hope to make Curt’s a vibrant gathering spot, and a positive force for good, here in Evanston.

So we’re offering something besides delicious food and a comfortable space: we’re also serving up good portions of hope and opportunity.  Curt’s Café is a non-profit organization that provides training, in food service and life skills, for at-risk youth in Evanston.  Students at Curt’s learn valuable, employable skills; they’re tutored in subjects ranging from computer literacy to job readiness to food history; and they are mentored by food service professionals and other caring adults. Our students receive a stipend while they’re learning and we’ll provide job placement assistance when they complete their training.

Our student-trainees are all from Evanston and range in age from 15 through 22.  They’re all considered at risk, meaning they have either already had contact with the judicial system or had been headed in that direction.  They’re determined now to build a positive future for themselves, their families and their community.  For these young people, being able to get and hold a job will contribute immeasurably toward their success.

Our program at Curt’s is unique and much needed.  Formerly incarcerated or proven-risk youth have limited options and few resources available to them.  Even a short period of confinement dramatically affects a young person’s ability to thrive outside incarceration.  They have little hope of securing employment, even for entry level positions.  Many end up living on the streets and return to destructive habits. They cycle through the courts and 82% of those released are being sent back through the system within a year.

We all pay the price for such recidivism: it costs more (and taxpayers foot the bill) to send a teenager to a correctional institution than it does to put them through Northwestern University. For our sake and theirs, it makes sense to direct these young people toward a secure and productive future, where they can contribute to their community instead of undermining it. 

These young people all identify one essential thing that would help them turn their lives around: a job. 

So here at Curt’s we are determined to provide that opportunity for at-risk youth, to train them and provide them with marketable skills and then assist them in securing employment. We tutor them in culinary technique but also provide them with the instruction they’ll need to fill in educational gaps, gain confidence, and become job-ready.

We support our students in the process of learning productive life skills by introducing them to four disciplines:

– Life Skills such as opening a bank account, decision-making, job readiness

I – Intellectual Skills such as English, math and computer literacy

F – Food Service Skills in the kitchen, as baristas, in counter service, and in food preparation

E – Experiential Skills by providing mentors to support the students outside the Café

Some of the teaching is done on the Café line, some of it is done in a classroom setting, and some of it is done by individual mentors.

Students are referred by Evanston probation officers, Evanston’s Youth Job Center, social services agencies, and the States Attorney. We enroll four or five students at a time who will train with us for three months; all students are provided with a stipend as they learn with us. After their training program with us concludes we will assist our students with job placement and work with them with their transition into full-time employment.  We hope to have a minimum of 25 students through the program each year.

Our students and their families will always find a home at Curt’s Café.  We will promote education, respect, compassion and integrity, and embrace the philosophy of restorative justice in all we do.  

We invite you in to meet our student trainees, our staff, and our volunteers.  If you have further questions feel free to contact us via email or call us at .  And if you’d like to help our program thrive, we can surely use you!  Click here for more info on our volunteer needs and other ways you can help. 

Click here to subscribe to our email list, which will keep you updated about our program and also let you know about coffee and menu specials and events at the Cafe.

To learn more about our program’s staff and Board of Directors, click here. 

Thank you for your interest and support – we look forward to seeing you at the Café!


Tax Deductible

Curt’s Café is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Tax ID number 45-3934105. Your contributions are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable.