‘A springboard to more education’: Desire to learn simmers in student

January 26, 2022

Vernon Dixon recognized a great opportunity when it appeared on his phone. He already knew that age is no obstacle to self-improvement too. This 65-year-old Dover resident is an enthusiastic student at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford. While he may not have considered entering a career in the food service industry, he looked at the possibilities in a new light. He was receiving food at one of the Food Bank’s mass distributions at Dover Downs – down on his luck — when he got a message about our work-force development training.

The Food Bank of Delaware’s Delaware Food Works offers free training through our Culinary Schools in Newark and Milford. The Culinary School is a 14-week training program that’s certified through the Delaware Department of Education. Students are prepared to enter careers in the food service industry.

In order to enroll, students must be available to attend in-person classes from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in Newark or Milford. Each student receives uniforms, a textbook, and chef’s knife as part of the program.  Students learn basic and high-end culinary skills in professional kitchens and have the opportunity to become ServSafe® certified. At the end of 12 weeks of on-site instruction, students enter a paid two-week work experience and job placement services.

Tuition is paid through scholarships and generous grants. In addition, students may receive free transportation to attend class; gas cards are available for student drivers.

The unexpected opportunity appealed to Dixon. “I always wanted to go to culinary school. Personally, I cook at home and for my daughter’s wedding and house warming. But I wanted to know how a chef preps, how to follow recipes, how to perfect my skills, and just make things better,” he said.

Dixon said his last job was in customer relations, but he had worked in kitchens – at a children’s hospital making salads and shakes – in his native New Jersey. “I started as a dishwasher,” he said.

He admits he hesitated before deciding to enroll here. “The first time I got the text, I wasn’t ready,” he said. When he got another message, his response shifted. “I said ‘I’m ready.’ And it’s free.”

There are no regrets.

“I am really enjoying the experience. I’m learning a lot: ServSafe®, the mother sauces, cold foods, hot foods, and the book experience too. I like the hands-on experience we get. I learned how to cut-up a chicken properly. We’ve made broths, stocks, muffins from scratch, and they all come out good. I’m excited about everything we’ve made,” Davis said.

Has it been easy? NO! “I’m actually tired when I get home. It’s a lot, and some of it’s a little difficult, but I try to do the best I can,” he said.

And when it comes to his personal goals for the future, he’s expanded his vision and his dreams. “It’s not like when I was 20. I would like to broaden my culinary education; I’d like to go to France. For me, this is a stepping stone to more education about cooking,” he added. “I’m going to my certificate and graduate. I want to learn.”

Click here to learn more about the Food Bank of Delaware’ Culinary Schools and other work-force training programs offered through Delaware Food Works.

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