Future restaurateur finds roots in the Club

Antonae Norris is studying the restaurant business from the ground up – literally.

The 15-year-old Cleveland Central Catholic High School student is learning how to grow produce as a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland’s entrepreneurial farm program. For Antonae, it is the first step toward getting a business degree, becoming a chef and owning a restaurant.

“I know I want a flourishing restaurant, four to five stars,” she said. “I will cook five-star food.”

Antonae said her experience with the farm program has shown her how to grow produce and, more importantly, to recognize good quality product. And selling those products at BGCC’s farm stand has given her a glimpse at entrepreneurship, marketing, customer service and working with money.

“I know fresh produce. I know when stuff looks good and when it looks bad,” she said.

Alys Virzi, who manages the farm program, described Antonae as “clearly driven and self-motivated. When I asked her what she gets out of the Club and the farm program, the first benefit she cited was ‘accountability.’ My heart smiled.”

Virzi said Antonae is an excellent worker. “If I leave her alone to do a task,” Virzi said, “I know that she will finish it and that it will be done right. She is respectful and hard-working and gets along with her co-workers.”

Antonae is sophomore at CCC and a member of the school’s volleyball team. After graduation, she would like to pursue a business degree from Baldwin Wallace University and go to culinary school. One day she will be able to say the seeds of her career were sown at Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.