Kelly Long is no stranger to a commercial kitchen. This Lewes resident had been working as a dishwasher in a resort-area restaurant when her hours were cut. So she went to the state Social Services office to apply for benefits – known as food stamps -through the state Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Her social worker asked if she were interested in a workforce training opportunity through Delaware WONDER, a federal grant program, in which the Food Bank of Delaware is a partner. This U.S. Department of Agriculture pilot program is designed to prepare people for a career path.
Although the timing was a little tight, Kelly decided to take advantage of the opportunity.
“The cooking class started right away. It fell into my lap, and I love it,” she said, referring to The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware. Kelly goes to class at the Milford Branch.
The 14-week program includes 12 weeks (day-time hours) of hands-on training in basic and high-end kitchen skills, safe food handling and life skills. The 12-week training culminates with a two-week paid internship at a food service company, restaurant or catering company. The school is a certified trade school by the Delaware Department of Education.
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.
Under the direction of the Food Bank’s Executive Chef Tim Hunter and Chef Instructors Donnie Stephens and Tish Badamshin students are introduced to a commercial kitchen, learn culinary mathematics, basic cooking techniques, presentation and baking skills, knife handling basics, ServSafe® food safety skills and more.
Kelly says she likes not only learning new things, but also how the skills are taught.
“I like the way the chefs and Ruthann (Ruthann Messick, program manager) add personal experience. They are not just going through the motions. They don’t want us to fail. They care about us, each one of us. Oh, they are tough, but it’s tough love,” she says. “I will be sad when it’s all over.”
On the other hand, she’s very happy that she now has a job at Baywood Greens, and she is looking forward to taking her new skills out into the world.
Kelly obviously loves to help others, and she has given some thought as to how she can help people by preparing nourishing meals for them.
“I want to be a line cook, but I know I could cook at shelters. God has opened the biggest door for me, and I’m excited.”
To learn more about The Culinary School, please click here.