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Citrus Heights meal company launches culinary training for students

MealPro Chef Dan Catanio teaches student Kobe Bassett how to make a soup. // M. Hazlip

By Mike Hazlip—
A Citrus Heights-based meal preparation company is working with a local nonprofit to provide culinary training to students and youths with disabilities, enabling them to begin a career in the restaurant industry.

As part of a partnership with Pride Industries, MealPro Chef Dan Catanio teaches the classes and said students will be able to get an entry-level job at a restaurant, with participants receiving a Food Handler certificate and a program diploma at the end of the program.

The program lasts two weeks, with students learning at MealPro’s facility several hours per day, four days a week, at 7421 Greenback Ln., Catanio said.

“They’re learning the basics of prep work to go out in the industry to get a job, that’s what this whole program is about,” Catanio said, adding that the classes are open to students outside of Pride Industries. “I teach them the basic fundamentals, then they go and knock on the doors.”

With over 40 years in the industry, Catanio said he is back in his home state after traveling across the country working as a saucier at The Waldorf-Astoria in New York, and later serving as executive chef at the Country Club of Little Rock, before becoming the corporate chef of Restaurant Central and then traveling the United States with Compass Group.

“My passion now is just to teach, to get people in the industry, to build a stronger industry — because there’s a lot of restaurants that are in need of people that they’re so short of jobs. So this is what they’re learning, the skills to knock on the door.”

Catanio said the demand for cooks is high in the industry, and he hopes his students will be able to move up and learn new skills.

Brothers Issac and Stephen Lewis joined Kobe Bassett as the first students in the program this year. Bassett said he has thought of opening his own restaurant one day.

Catanio said the money generated by students outside of Pride Industries goes back into the program. There are also plans to market the sauces produced at the facility to bring in additional revenue for the program.

MealPro Founder Andy Sartori said he dedicated the kitchen space for the program after acquiring the building where his business has been operating since 2020. Sartori called the facility a “test kitchen,” and said none of the recipes made there are distributed to MealPro customers. He provides the facility to students at no charge.

“We donate the space, we donate the facilities at no cost, we do it completely free, because that can be a challenge when you’re learning,” Sartori said. “It’s like, how do I learn it in a space and how do you make it feasible? So that’s our contribution to Pride.”

Pride Industries has a career hub located in Citrus Heights at 7011 Sylvan Rd., where the organization helps prepare individuals for employment and develop a career path. The nonprofit was founded in 1966, with a mission to create employment for people with disabilities.

Sartori said MealPro has hired workers from Pride Industries as well as other similar organizations, and students from Catanio’s program may be eligible for an entry level job at MealPro.

For Catanio, the opportunity to give back to the community and help train students is a rewarding part of his career.

“There’s no other satisfying joy… to make sure that they get jobs out there in the industry,” Catanio said. “And you made it happen by giving some of my talent to them to go spread it to other people and to be a part of the food industry (and) keep it going strong.”

More information about the job training program can be found at

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