Sweet Generation, a bustling East Village bakery that’s winning kudos for its youth-empowerment mission - and raves for its lavender-lemon cupcakes, gooey brownies and home-made Pop-Tarts - is a passion of Amy Chasan. With help from head baker Rena Lampka and a small army of eager teen trainees, Chasan has built the business into a pastry powerhouse with a devoted neighborhood clientele and clients like Madison Square Garden and the Think Coffee chain. “The whole business started because I adore cooking for people I love,” Chasan said.
“The importance of good food, community and helping people was instilled in me from a very young age. My mom would often bake her famous banana bread for community fundraisers, bake sales or just to bring girlfriends together to talk and share. I learned that food has tremendous power that way.”
That kind of thinking fuels Sweet Generation’s internship program, which has served 35 kids since opening its doors almost a year ago.
At Sweet Generation, interns come from schools across New York City and have to apply for positions. Chasan said she’s aiming to work with a range of teenagers, from “high-school youth looking for a first job experience to disconnected older youth who are working on making a shift in their life.”
After an orientation that introduces interns to concepts like professional standards, customer service and social mission, the kids get a deep dive into Sweet Generation’s day-to-day: “How to use our Point-Of-Sale system, how to brew coffee, product tasting, kitchen safety, even personal goal-setting,” Chasan said.
Once Chasan and her crew decide if an intern will work front or back or house - serving customers or baking treats - they pair the kid with a mentor who teach the basics of reading and scaling recipes, packaging products and setting up display cases. Interns also take the NYC Department of Health’s Food Safety course and exam. “The potential to exit our program with a Food Handler’s License makes them more eligible candidates for food service jobs,” Chasan said.
The program’s success stories include a former intern who’s now an employee - and overseeing 4,000 pieces of baked goods daily at Sweet Generation’s busy commissary kitchen in Long Island City, Queens.