Culinary School teaches new skills; offers retiree another career option

November 30, 2022

Ed Cooke might be the quiet guy in this semester’s Food Bank of Delaware Culinary School’s Milford class. He’s not shy, but reserved – definitely not a typical student. And that’s OK. This Felton resident enrolled in the class after learning about this educational opportunity from his brother, George. George graduated from our training program early in 2022.

Ed’s reason for signing up was simple: he didn’t know how to cook; he and his classmates will graduate on Dec. 21.  In the meantime, he’s completing his course work.

The Culinary School is a 14-week training program that’s certified through the Delaware Department of Education. Students are prepared to enter careers in the food service industry with an opportunity to complete ServSafe® training as well.

Each class spends 12 weeks in the classroom and the Food Bank’s professional training kitchen, then they’ll be off to two-week paid work experience before that graduation ceremony.

Although many of our students enroll because they lack workplace skills, that’s not Cooke. He retired from the Delaware State Police after 25 years of service, and he’s worked as a dental hygienist, a registered nurse, a paramedic, an aviation officer, flight medic aboard the state police helicopters, and a canine officer. He also retired from the Delaware Army National Guard, then served as police chief in the town of Blades, and a security officer at the Seaford Library.

And . . . there’s more: he’s also completing course work and writing a dissertation on PTSD needed to earn his PhD in philosophy in Christian counseling.

“I’ve retired three times, but I want to learn how to cook,” he said. “I’m enjoying this, and I’m doing well on the exams. I’m used to regimentation and studying.”

Not only does Cooke study, he hones new skills by practicing at home. “The knife skills are really fascinating, so I practice. I’m learning to cook, something I wasn’t able to do before.”

Like many of his classmates, Cooke is looking forward to his two-week work experience; he’s applied for a position in the Dover Air Force Base dining facility. “My goal is to transition from intern to employee. I want to learn more, gain more experience.”

How does Cooke feel about being the most senior member of his class? “It’s been a lot of fun. I sit back and allow them to express themselves. I can offer them expressions that help them bring their A game, like ‘Excuses are exits off the highway to success.’ I don’t accept excuses,” he said.

The Food Bank of Delaware offers free training through our Culinary Schools in Newark and Milford. The next class starts in January.

Tuition is paid through scholarships and generous grants. In addition, students receive free transportation to attend class; gas cards are available for student drivers.

Click here for more information or to apply for this program.


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