By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
Nelson Porto’s passion is cooking, and it has been for at least a few of decades.
But this former IT professional was reluctant to combine business with pleasure, if you will. For nearly as many years, he worked in the technology field and kept the food preparation at home.
“I didn’t want to ruin my passion with it as my job,” he said.
He loves preparing Cuban food, a reflection of his cultural heritage. “You can’t find authentic Cuban food. It’s very flavorful, but not hot (spicy).”
His perspective shifted one day while watching the Food Network. A cooking show led this Miami, Fla. native on an internet search to learn the difference between a chef and a cook.
From there, he Googled culinary schools in this area. Another keystroke or two took him to the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School.
The rest, as the cliché goes, is history.
The Culinary School is a 14-week workforce development program.
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.
In addition to classroom instruction, students are taught by chef instructors in professional kitchens, go on guided field trips to food-related industries, assist during events to benefit the Food Bank of Delaware, and take the ServSafe® exam for professional credentialing. They also work a two-week paid internship in the industry.
Students are referred to the program through the Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, Delaware Health and Social Services and other community-based organizations.
Nelson started in The Culinary School’s Milford branch in September, and about a month later he landed employment at Abbott’s Grill in Milford. He’s also working on a bachelor’s degree in business through the University of Phoenix.
And he’s loving life!
He’s been more than pleased with classes and his instructors.
“It’s been a blessing, starting with Chef Tim, Chef Tish, and Ruthann (Milford’s culinary program manager.) They are dedicated, and they build our strengths, for sure. I’ve put the word out,” he said.
Nelson is also appreciative of the instruction and guidance from Kevin Reading, Abbott’s chef/ owner.
“He’s an amazing person. He takes time out to give detailed instructions.”
Nelson says he finds there’s one negative aspect to all of this.
“I’m 43 years old, and I’m making a career change. I hate that school is ending soon.”
He and his classmates will graduate on Dec. 20.
For more information about the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School, click here.