Culinary School training leverages food passion to professional level
January 24, 2022
Contact with four friends who completed training at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford piqued Angela Smith’s interest in professional culinary training. But she was hesitant about further investigating enrollment possibilities because she was already employed. “I thought it was income-based, and I thought I would get turned away,” she said.
But when she saw a notice about an information session, the Seaford resident decided to attend. The rest is history. “I’m grateful that I’m here,” she said. “All my friends who came here are working in the industry.”
The Food Bank of Delaware’s Delaware Food Works programming offers free training through our Culinary Schools in Newark and Milford. 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.
In order to enroll, students must be available to attend in-person classes from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday in Newark or Milford. Each student receives uniforms, a textbook, and chef’s knife as part of the program. Students learn basic and high-end culinary skills in professional kitchens and have the opportunity to become ServSafe® certified. At the end of 12 weeks of on-site instruction, students enter a paid two-week work experience and receive job placement services.
Tuition is paid through scholarships and generous grants. In addition, students receive free transportation to attend class; gas cards are available for student drivers.
Like many of our students, Smith, who’s 43 years old, at times wonders if her age may be an obstacle to success. However, her track record demonstrates that she possesses both a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit. As a teen, she worked in the fast food world. Later, she worked for years as a pharmacy technician while growing her career as a monetized YouTube influencer. She’s Angie in Realife and is a paid content reader on YouTube. “I’m also blogging this experience on YouTube,” she added.
Her enthusiasm for the Culinary School is obvious. Smith grew up learning to cook and meal preparation in her grandmother’s kitchen. “I worked in retail, long-term care, a hospital . . . and I loved it. A lot of it is the same,” Smith said. But when her mother – and her best friend – passed away in 2018 at age 57, Smith became depressed. “I wasn’t even going out of the house. I call this my re-entry into the world.”
She is quick to note that on some levels her pharmacy training often parallels her culinary education. “I had to follow a recipe to make IV bags,” she explained, adding that once completed, a pharmacist checked her work.
Through the Culinary School, she’s igniting her passion. “I love food. I have a passion for food. My mantra is, ‘Cooking is therapy. Food is life. Keep on cooking, Good Looking.”’ I zone out when I’m cooking. I’ve even done cooking videos; they are my most watched.”
What Smith hopes to achieve through this training is professionalism. “I’ve been making some of what we do, the mother sauces. I just didn’t know it was called bechamel. I didn’t know the technical terms. It’s not easy here; it’s hard. I never worked in this part of the food industry. I’m accepting this and who I am now. I don’t get frustrated.”
It’s no surprise that she has several goals to achieve after she graduates, polishing what she’s already doing and moving on to a next level. For example, she sets up create-your-own taco bars for friends and family members’ baby showers and special occasions. Of course, they are a huge hit already. “I want to be able to do it properly, maybe as a personal chef. I want to do catering and a meal prep food service. A food truck? I’m developing my own taco sauce,” Smith said. She’s contracted to provide food service at her sister’s child-care center as well.
As to the next level, Smith’s working with a business coach to successfully blend and manage all those irons she’s got in the proverbial fire. “Hopefully, I can move everything under one umbrella. I don’t have to be a burger flipper – not that there’s anything wrong with that. Now I can be a manager and not work for anyone else.”
Click here to learn more about workforce training programs, including The Culinary School.