It was a small, yet mighty class. Two members of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware celebrated their achievements today during a graduation ceremony for the 15th class at the Food Bank’s Milford facility.
The graduates are Victoria Ludwig and Meg Thompson.
Both students are already employed at Harrington Raceway & Casino and Dover Downs, respectively.
Guest speaker, Brenton Wallace, owner and chef at Crust & Craft in Rehoboth Beach was guest speaker.
Wallace shared the career path he took to get to where he is today. At age 15 he knew he wanted to be a chef, but decided to enroll at Penn State University to pursue a career in environmental science. After his first semester, he decided that his heart was with the culinary field and enrolled at Johnson and Wales.
“I never wanted to have the feeling that I didn’t do what I loved. I was going to work hard every day,” he said.
Wallace advised the students to “show up on time every day, work hard every day and respect your coworkers.”
Food Bank of Delaware Executive Chef Tim Hunter congratulated the students for their hard work. “The fact that there are only two students graduating is a testament to how difficult this program is,” he said. “Not everyone makes it. These two students made it. We work in a hard industry. We work at night, on weekends and holidays. We are working when everyone is off. Our graduates show that they are committed to this difficult, yet rewarding industry.”
Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware Chef Instructor Tish Badamshin and the guidance of Ruthann Messick, Workforce Training Program Manager, the students spent the past 14 weeks developing their skills and passion for the culinary arts. In addition to classroom and kitchen time, the two students also assisted with catering for a summer sunset cruise series with Captain’s Lady Charters and cooking demonstrations at the Delaware State Fair. Both students also passed the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe certification.
Their education was funded through Delaware WONDER, a state program to provide employment training opportunities to people on SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) benefits.
Graduate Victoria Ludwig has landed employment at Harrington Raceway and Casino. Ludwig admits that she has made mistakes in life, but The Culinary School was the second chance she needed in life. “No matter what you have done, every winter has a spring. Because of the mistakes I have made, I am a new person. With my new life, I have found culinary.”
A professionally-trained opera singer, graduate Meg Thompson spent most of her life travelling the world experiencing different foods.
“It made sense for me to go into culinary.”
Meg Thompson received the class’ Most Meticulous Award. Her meticulousness in the kitchen has paid off as she is now employed at Dover Downs’ commissary working alongside a master pastry chef baking and decorating cakes.
“I am having a tremendous amount of fun,” she said.
Following the ceremony, the graduates showcased their newly acquired skills by serving a delicious lunch they had prepared for family and friends.
The mission of The Culinary School is two-fold. First students are taught skills that are highly desirable to employers in the food industry and second, these newly-developed skills have the potential to lead to jobs in the industry that provide job security and economic sustainability.
Students are referred to the program through the Delaware Health and Social Services, Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and other community-based organizations.