Food Bank of Delaware celebrates third Delaware WONDER culinary graduation

October 25, 2016

They were small, but mighty.

Jayla Alderman Watson and Jeanne Smith made up the 44th graduating class of The Culinary School in Newark. Both students are part of the Delaware WONDER program, a job readiness program of Delaware Health and Social Services. Their accomplishments were celebrated this morning at a graduation ceremony held in the Newark volunteer room.

Jayla and Jeanne have spent the past 14 weeks working hands on in the Newark kitchen with Chef Instructor Donnie Stephens. Both students successfully passed the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe exam and both are employed – Jeanne at Deerfield and Jayla at the soon-to-open Ted’s Montana Grill.

“It was a privilege and honor to work with these two students,” said Chef Donnie. “I don’t just see two graduates, I see two success stories.”

Executive Chef Tim Hunter also praised the students for their dedication to the program.

Jayla Alderman Watson with Chef Donnie Stephens and Culinary School Program Manager Lynda Pusey

“Everybody doesn’t make it through our program,” he said. “These two made it through though.”

“I am extremely happy to be here right now,” said Jayla.

Thanks to a small classroom environment, the students had opportunities that other classes could not experience. In addition to kitchen and classroom lessons, the class took trips to see how other kitchens operate.

Jeanne was especially excited that she had the chance to make her own lunch in the kitchen of the Stone Balloon Ale House in Newark. While there, she also had the chance to meet Chef Robbie Jester, a recent winner on the Food Network’s “Beat Bobby Flay.”

Jeannie Smith with Chef Donnie Stephens and Culinary School Program Manager Lynda Pusey

The students assisted with the March of Dimes fundraiser, Farmer and the Chef, the Food Bank’s groundbreaking at 222 Lake Drive and Saturday’s Blue Jean Ball.

“I can’t believe it’s over, but it’s really just starting,” Jeanne said to today’s graduation audience.

A room full of 20-plus students from the current classes in Newark and Milford also filled the room. Her advice to them, “Make sure you show up every day. There is so much opportunity here. I want to thank the program for giving me the direction that I needed.”

And Jeanne did show up every day – she received the perfect attendance award.

After the formal graduation program, graduates and new students prepared lunch for all. The menu featured potato croquettes, curried chicken, salmon, baked ziti, Caesar salad, crab dip, cabbage, assorted desserts and ice cream from the UDairy Creamery.

“Workforce development is what we are all about here at the Food Bank of Delaware,” said President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “In order for Delawareans to no longer rely on our emergency food services, we need to train them for jobs that pay a sustainable wage. This is why we have The Culinary School.”

To learn more about The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware, please click here.




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