Eating at newly opened Edgar’s Grille allows you to meet Goodwill with a clean slate
On Tuesday, February 12, Goodwill Industries of Middle Georgia and the CSRA opened Edgar’s Grille, an upscale, fine-dining restaurant smack in the middle of its new campus at the corner of Washington and Furys Ferry roads.
That’s right — you heard “Goodwill” and “upscale, fine dining” in the same sentence.
The food is coordinated by a world-renowned chef and the design is worthy of a glossy magazine spread, which is why President and CEO Jim Stiff hopes the restaurant will help people have what he calls an Etch a Sketch moment.
“Everyone who walks through that door — their Etch a Sketch machine gets erased,” he says.
What he hopes gets erased is people’s preconceptions about Goodwill’s overall mission and how it relates to the restaurant and Helms College, the accompanying culinary school he hopes to launch into other applied learning directions.
You know how Goodwill stores allow you to help support career development programs by shopping? Edgar’s Grille allows you to support them by eating good food.
Really good food.
“You rethink the perception of Goodwill,” Stiff says. “We’ve been working on it in terms of how to present to the community that there is some connectivity, but this is completely run by professionals and a world-renowned chef is putting the whole thing together.”
That chef is Marcel Biro, a European-trained master chef and former personal chef to German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, who was coaxed to Augusta by Stiff’s concept.
“I was intrigued not just by what is happening, but by the whole idea behind it,” he says. “Helping others and giving back to the community and making better communities.”
The restaurant complements the culinary school at Helms College, though it is by no means a practice kitchen. Instead, it is a regular restaurant staffed by professionals that simply gives students an opportunity to intern on their way to earning a diploma or certificate and, ideally, a job at one of the other restaurants in town. Or around the country.
That experiential learning component is the central aspect of the Helms College model, which echoes Goodwill founder Edgar Helms’ original concept of job training, which included hands-on experience.
“The hospitality creates the stage so we can tell our story on the stage,” Stiff says. “So I think it’s going to be a lot easier to have people understand how we’re transforming people’s lives by just gingerly learning about our mission from the servers, from looking at the menu, from observing the campus and looking at how they’re being trained in the back.”
And he hopes that, from a fundraising perspective, it makes things easier for building phase three — an additional educational opportunity built around applied learning.
“But this will be the heart of the center,” he says. “Because this is the main place that the community and Edgar and his mission meet.”
In addition to the restaurant, which has a full bar, lounge and outdoor seating, there is also a conference center that can accommodate up to 250 guests.
And from February 23-27, Stiff will have the opportunity to show off the entire operation to the top brass of the organization as he hosts the annual gathering of Goodwill CEOs.
Goodwill is roughly 195 autonomous organizations that are connected by an association.
“That causes us all to be very creative because we’ve got lots of opportunities,” he says. “We can take the pulse of the local community and create the type of programs and the type of businesses that make the most amount of sense for our local community.”
Hosting the CEOs will allow him to share his vision not just of Edgar’s, but of the neighboring bookstore, recently renamed Hire Grounds, the conference center and the Helms College concept, which Stiff is anxious to expand.
“I think their first dining experience will change everything for them because of the caliber of the talent we’ve brought in,” he says. “There’s not a high-end, upscale restaurant affiliated with some type of skill training — this is the only manifestation of that — and we’re really hoping that people with lots of creativity and curiosity and resources say, ‘We’d like Marcel to help us established an Edgar’s Grille in, say, Portland, Oregon.’”
Biro also likes the a la carte aspect of programming.
“If the CEO understands his community, he could say the grill might not work, but maybe the coffee shop is a wonderful idea,” he says.
According to Stiff, the business is built to grow.
“We finished the 2016 strategic plan and we have in that plan to have a total of four Helms College campuses by 2016 and then have an additional two outside of our territory in other Goodwill territories that will have similar complementary businesses with applied learning, like an Edgar’s.”
By having the restaurant serve as an applied learning venue for the Helms College students, Stiff feels it deflects whatever criticism might exist when it comes to competing against private-sector restaurants.
“The minute that we do not supply others in the industry with high-quality candidates that we have skillfully trained and allow them to have hands-on experience with our operation to get the rough edges off, then we’re going to look like the competition,” Stiff says. “But if we’re meeting their human resource needs, then the fact that we’re a 501c3 and pay no taxes — all of that kind of becomes righted in the greater karma of life.” You Might Also Like: