Dwayne Harden graduated from The Culinary School with class 26 in spring 2011. He learned about the program while at the Plummer Community Correction Center’s Crest Program, a residential program for drug and alcohol abusers.
Food Bank of Delaware Executive Chef Tim Hunter recognized Dwayne’s passion for the culinary field early on. At graduation, Dwayne was honored with not only the perfect attendance award, but also an award for best attitude.
More than six years later, Dwayne’s commitment to his craft has paid off. He is now the head chef at the Rick VanStory Resource Center in Wilmington.
The mission of the Rick VanStory Resource Center (RVRC) is to promote recovery, through peer directed services, quality of life, advocacy, education, mutual support for individuals with mental illnesses, addictions, or co-occurring diagnoses throughout the state of Delaware.
Looking back, Dwayne never imagined having a rewarding career in the food service industry. He held a few dish washing jobs in restaurants, but nothing long term.
He credits Executive Chef Tim Hunter, Culinary School alumnus Gaylan Maxson and Food Bank of Delaware chef instructor at the time Tara Kazimir for seeing his potential.
“They saw some stuff in me that I didn’t see in myself,” he explained.
Dwayne did his two-week internship at the Wilmington Hospital and even worked part-time in the Food Bank kitchen preparing meals for the summer meal program. He was eventually hired at the Wilmington Hospital café and later moved on to the Dupont Country Club.
Dwayne started working at the RVRC in 2014.
He actually applied for a different position. “I was looking for part-time, but it turned into full-time work and then turned into the kitchen position,” he said.
As the head chef, Dwayne is responsible for placing orders, planning menus, making sure food is cooked adequately and ensuring that the day-to-day operations of the kitchen run smoothly.
Dwayne works with team members Steven Eatmon and Kayla Reddick, both Culinary School graduates, to prepare 70-100 meals a day. Meals are served to in-house residents, day program participants and group home residents that visit the center during the day.
“With those two working, it takes the load off,” he pointed out.
What’s a typical day look like for Dwayne?
“I come in, check the stock, see what has been used up. We start to make meals around 9-9:30 a.m., starting with lunch and then rolling right into dinner,” he said.
He said the training received at The Culinary School fully prepared him for the position at the RVRC. Receiving a ServSafe certification was incredibly important, especially since the kitchen had a food safety inspection recently and passed.
Dwayne is incredibly thankful for the opportunity to attend The Culinary School. He keeps in touch with the team and has even sent referrals for the Newark class.
Interested in a career in the food service industry? The next class of The Culinary School in both Newark and Milford begins Monday, January 22, 2018. Click here to learn more or to apply online!