Culinary training places healthcare worker on unique career path

November 17, 2017

Jose Rivera had spent the past two years working in the healthcare field as a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA).

While at the Porter State Service Center, Jose learned about the Delaware WONDER program. He was instructed to take a test for job placement and education opportunities. “Once my test results came back, they said I was eligible for The Culinary School,” he said.

Delaware WONDER (Work Opportunity Networks to Develop Employment Readiness) is led by Delaware Health and Social Services Division of Social Services (DHSS), which administers the SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Program in Delaware. It offers targeted career tracks in construction, culinary arts, manufacturing and broad-based job placement.

Jose felt The Culinary School was a good fit for his career path.

“I thought I could build upon that and get a culinary degree and further my education and also be able to provide a quality meal for the residents I take care of,” he pointed out. “I have always been concerned about health in general.”

When Jose was 18 he started taking classes at Delaware Technical and Community College for nuclear medicine. “I wasn’t able to finish, because I ran out of funds. When I heard about The Culinary School, it sounded too good to be true. I took advantage of the opportunity. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. As long as you come here consistently, they will give you bus passes… everything.”

The training that Jose is receiving at The Culinary School has been valuable.

“I never thought I would be cooking one day,” he said. “It’s built my character in a multitude of different ways…. be consistent, be a team player… unless I am a team player, I can’t be efficient in the kitchen. I am able to use the lessons learned here in all walks of life.”

Several weeks ago, Jose landed a job at 8th & Union Kitchen in Wilmington. Jose is responsible for working the grill.

“Mondays are the most hectic,” he said. “It’s 50 percent off burgers. On a typical evening we might have three orders coming at once. On a Monday there might be seven to eight at once.”

Jose admits that a busy working kitchen is much different than the classroom environment. “It’s a lot more intense, a lot more pressure. If I had not attended The Culinary School for the amount of time I have been here, I don’t think I would have survived even a day,” he said.

As Jose looks towards graduation in January, he is also focused on long-term goals.

He would like to continue to pursue the nursing field and advance his education to become an RN.

“I want to obtain a position at a nursing home or hospital, taking care of elderly residents,” he explained. “I want to take care of them from not only the physical aspect, but also provide them a healthy, quality meal, because you are what you eat.”

Jose’s advice to students considering The Culinary School?

“If you are ready to push forward and you want to better yourself and learn a lot of different skillsets… I would say go for it,” he said. “There are a lot of different things that we learn aside from cooking and how to use a knife. We have life skills, we have financial coaching. They help you with all different aspects.”

Jose is thankful for the opportunity to attend The Culinary School.

“It’s a phenomenal place to be,” he said. “The people that I have pushing me forward are amazing. Anything that we need, whether we are going through something personal, it’s just a matter of waking up in the morning and showing up.”

Interested in a career in the food service industry? The next class of The Culinary School in both Newark and Milford begins Monday, January 22. Click here to learn more or to apply online!

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