Armed with Lifelong Skills, New Culinary Grads Enter the Workforce

June 28, 2021

You know the outdoor culinary graduation ceremony was a scorcher when guest speaker, Heritage Shores Executive Chef Christian Lofland, told the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School graduates and the audience, “This is what the kitchen feels like.” He wasn’t kidding!

Five determined students graduated from the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford this morning. Under the direction of Chef Instructor Tish Badamshin, the graduates completed all competencies, including passing their ServSafe ® certification, necessary to begin new careers in the food service industry.

Members of the 30th graduating class at the Milford Branch are Alex DuSold, Jaden Gerrity, Stephen Marinari, Shalee Murray, and Shakhia Truitt. The students all successfully finished the 14-week program through a combination of remote learning and on-site kitchen experiences.

This was the first Culinary School gradation for the Food Bank’s President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky; she came on board in May. “This job, for me, has been life changing. It’s been very humbling,” she told the students and their families, elected officials, and staff.

Lofland, the guest speaker, has strong Milford ties; as a teenager, he started his career as dishwasher at the Milford Diner, never dreaming he’d become an executive chef. He offered graduates some time-tested advice: “Be on time. Always carry a Sharpie and a notebook. Write things down,” he said.

He also shared with them some food for thought in the current environment, where jobs in the food service industry are abundant. “I love food, and I love the camaraderie of the kitchen, but even if you don’t stay [in this profession], at least you will be able to cook for yourself and eat for a lifetime.”

The graduates also heard words of encouragement from the Food Bank’s Chef Tim Hunter and Workforce Program Coordinator Michelle Cephas.

“Keep going. Don’t give up,” advised Cephas. “If you stop, you never know what you can accomplish. I am telling you. Do not stop. Keep going. Do not give up. Let this ring in your ears when I am not here.”

Graduate Stephen Marinari obtained employment mid-way through the 14-week training program. “It was a little awkward for me at first,” he admitted. “I didn’t think I fit, but this program saved me after what I overcame in my personal life. I had a 30-year career in IT. Now I am the sous chef and kitchen manager at Dalmata down in Rehoboth.”

The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware provides valuable job training to adults. The 14-week program includes 12 weeks (day-time hours) of hands-on training in basic and high-end kitchen skills, safe food handling and life skills. The 12-week training culminates with a two-week paid work experience at a food service company, restaurant or catering company. The school is a certified trade school by the Delaware Department of Education.

The next culinary class begins Aug. 21 in Milford and Newark. Visit to apply for the free daytime training program.

To learn more about The Culinary School, please contact Diana McDaniel at (302) 292-1305 ext. 230  (New Castle County) or contact Michelle Cephas (Kent and Sussex Counties) at or (302) 424-3301 ext. 107.

Congratulations, graduates!

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