Cheers, tears: Ceremony celebrates big accomplishments

December 21, 2022

Staff members at the Food Bank of Delaware know our graduation ceremonies are not only celebratory, but they also unleash some strong emotions. Cue the tears! Wednesday’s Culinary School graduation ceremony was no exception!

Fifteen graduates from classes held at both our Newark and Milford sites marked the successful completion of a 14-week training program. They all passed their SERV Safe® certification and landed a job in the food service industry. Their families packed the Food Bank’s Volunteer Room in Neawrk for the ceremony, followed by a luncheon prepared by these students.

The new graduates from the Newark class are: Alice Brody, Conner Callahan, Emilia Ozogu, Sameeka Rhodes, Aliya Smith, Marcel Smith, Kyle Sutter, and Cathy White. Angel Boyd, Edwin Cooke, Hadley O’Day, Maritza Figueroa, Jonathan Flores, Jeffrey LaPlante, and Hayden Woods attended TCS at our Milford site.

After receiving a diploma and certificate, each new graduate had an opportunity to step up to the mic – some admitting a fear of public speaking. Yet they spoke and shared their stories, their personal experiences not about food preparation, mastering knife skills,  learning the mother sauces or when to use a kitchen thermometer. They spoke – often hesitantly or fighting back tears — about how 14 weeks of culinary training changed their lives – for the better.

Alice explained how she had tried this class once, but didn’t complete it the first time. The second time, she said, was life changing. She identifies as a trans woman, and spoke about the love and support from her family and her classmates. She now has a job she loves.

Emilia stepped up and gave herself credit for perseverance and determination. While attending culinary school, she worked full-time in Philadelphia until midnight, didn’t get back home in Wilmington until 3 a.m., and caught an 8:30 a.m. shuttle to school. “I never missed a class,” she said.

“When I started, I didn’t think I would be capable,” Kyle said. And Angel said, “I didn’t know what I was getting into, but I was never alone. I learned not to doubt myself.”  Maritza, who is starting a second career at age 60, noted “From the minute I walked in the door, it felt like family, like walking into my home. Thank you.” Conner agreed the training was challenging, but “We were nets for each other. I’ve come into my character. I found a passion for cooking.”

In a surprise move, Chef Instructor Tish Badamshin shed a few tears while being presented with a plaque presented by graduate Ed Cooke. “She told us ‘If you’re receptive to learning, I’ve got a lot of experience, and I’ll give it my all.’ She loves what she’s doing.”

In her closing remarks, President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky praised the chefs and the students for their successes. “This program is about life. We like to say ‘Food for today, and food for tomorrow.’ This program is truly about food for tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be great if Delaware were the first state without a labor shortage in the food service industry because of our program?”

Visit to learn more about this culinary training program. Classes start in January at both the Newark and Milford locations.


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