Culinary School leads to a career, exploration of farm-to-table links

August 28, 2018

Kaitlyn Schafer is a pretty happy camper right now. The Milford resident graduated last Tuesday from The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware. She’s got a job –through The Culinary School – at the SoDel-managed Clubhouse at Baywood, and she plans to further her education and follow her dreams.

Like many of the culinary students, Kaitlyn said she had been working what she describes as a “dead-end job” before enrolling, so she started an internet search for cooking classes.

I didn’t know cooking was my passion then, but I knew it was something that I liked to do,” she said. Kaitlyn said she was aware of the Food Bank, but at the time didn’t know about The Culinary School.

The school’s 14-week program includes 12 weeks of classroom and hands-on kitchen training plus a two week paid work experience. From proper knife handling techniques to Serve Safe certification and completing that work experience, the students are prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.

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.

Students are referred to the program through Delaware Health and Social Services, Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and other community-based organizations. 

Kaitlyn’s internship was at the Clubhouse at Baywood where she is currently employed. “That was my goal, Baywood, because of the overall fine dining quality,” she said. “They completely make everything from scratch, including stocks. And my boss, Tom, I love to pick his brain.”

While she’s using skills learned at The Culinary School, Kaitlyn quickly recognized she was facing a big learning curve, and she is fine with that. “School taught me so much that’s valuable, but I want to learn it all. I’m very inquisitive,” she said.

Meanwhile, she’s exploring how to incorporate her interest in agriculture into the mix.  She interviewed for the Food Bank’s F.A.S.T. (Farm and Agriculture Skills Training) program, a new 14-week training that will be held on the Corteva Agriscience Farm at the Food Bank’s future home at 222 Lake Drive in Newark. F.A.S.T. is part of the Food Bank’s new workforce development initiative, Delaware Food Works.

Whether that’s the road she will follow remains to be seen; she is looking at college-based agricultural programs as well.

“I’m definitely looking at the two together (culinary and agriculture) since they go hand in hand, and I think food waste is a big issue,” she added.

“For me, this is a big year, big as in trying everything. I even tried calamari,” Kaitlyn said. “I have a goal for knowledge.”

Click here to learn more about The Culinary School and other Delaware Food Works workforce development programs.

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