To say that Stephanie Kemp is enthusiastic about her culinary school experience is an understatement. This Harrington resident is enrolled in the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School at the Milford site, and due to COVID-19 restrictions the school – like other educational institutions both locally and nationally – is operating on a new model.
The Culinary School is a 14-week program for unemployed, underemployed, reentering citizens, individuals with disabilities and those in career transition that teaches basic and high-end kitchen skills, ServSafe training, and life skills, culminating with a 2-week paid work experience. In FY19, 70 students graduated from the program. We also offer training to the food service industry through ServSafe and a Culinary Mentorship
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, this 14-week program included 12 weeks of combined classroom instruction and hands-on kitchen training; students reported to the Food Bank in Milford five days a week. All that’s changed – of course, and Stephanie and her classmates have been learning remotely via Zoom bolstered by two kitchen labs each week.
Stephanie is undaunted: she is embracing the opportunity to expand her horizons and enter the culinary world as a novice professional after graduation in October. Prior to starting school, she was employed by a local retailer, but she decided to “get training in the food industry. I’m 27, and I decided to do what I do what I love and go for it.”
She believes she’s inherited her passion for cooking. “My grandfather was a chef in the Air Force, so he was always helping me. My mom, too. My mom was a single mom, and she taught me home cooking,” Stephanie said.
There’s an added bonus. “Cooking and baking calms me down,” she added. “It makes me focus, from the raw ingredients to the finish and calms my anxiety.”
One of her favorite things to make is banana nut breads. “I miss my grandmother’s banana nut bread. She put raisins in that and in her zucchini bread and her pumpkin tea loaf,” she added.
The kitchen experience, although it’s limited to two days a week, has been great, she said. “I love working hands on.”
Click here to learn more about the Culinary School and the Food Bank of Delaware’s other workforce development training programs.