Photo: The Tennessean
Fabian Bedne remembers watching books burn in the 1980s on his college campus in his native Argentina. While the country was still under a dictatorship then, these weren’t the materials of the opposition… they were architecture textbooks.
That experience, however, was one of many – his own brother disappeared — that led him and others to protest, and the regime was eventually overthrown. He went on to become an architect, first in Buenos Aires, then in Ohio, where he worked in public housing, and ultimately in Nashville, where his wife had a family connection.
Whether it was an urge to get involved based on his experience living in fear in an occupied country or just his nature to help people come together to find solutions, Bedne ran for the Metro Council in 2011 and won – the first Latino to ever serve on the Council.
“My background is in architecture, but in that business, you’re really dealing with people,” he told the Nashville Scene back then. “I find being a councilman very similar. Being able to listen to people is key.”
Bedne has always been a friend to the hospitality and tourism industry, because he understands how important it is to celebrate culture and community. When the Nashville Kitchen Cabinet initiative was launched, he was among the first Metro Council members to embrace the concept. He now serves on the Steering Committee.
More recently, he has taken a leadership role in the Hispanic Family Foundation, a non-profit organization founded to help Latinos find essential services that help them thrive as New Americans. Workforce development is a critical component of their mission.
When Bedne was looking for ways to help address the shortage of restaurant workers in Nashville, he came to the Kitchen Cabinet for assistance in securing Spanish-speaking ServSafe instruction. Bedne was able to secure funding to cover the cost of the courses for 150 students, and he anticipates the program will grow in the future. The Tennessee Hospitality & Tourism Association provided an instructor, and the courses are set to start in November.
“The great thing about restaurants is they offer more than a job for someone with an interest in hospitality. It’s a career path where you can start at the bottom and work your way up, with no limit to the potential,” he says, citing examples of Hispanic Nashvillians who came here facing major barriers and found great success in the industry. “Working together, we can find ways to fill those positions and provide an opportunity to someone who is willing to work hard to make the most of it. That’s the way a community is supposed to work.”
For more information on the ServSafe courses – which will start with the Food Handler certification – please contact the Hispanic Family Foundation at 615-562-2222. To learn more about the Foundation, visit www.hispanicfamilyfoundation.com.