By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator
Last month, Executive Director of Food & Beverage at Harrington Raceway & Casino DJ Silicato was guest speaker for the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School’s graduation ceremony.
His presence and commitment to the Food Bank symbolize just one part in the network of corporate partnerships that the Food Bank likes to nurture within our community.
Three alumni from the Food Bank’s culinary program are now employed in the kitchens at Harrington Raceway, and it’s a relationship both the Raceway and the Food Bank plan to continue.
“We truly value the relationship we have developed with Harrington Raceway. They are great corporate citizens,” said Chad Robinson, the Food Bank’s Director of Strategic Initiatives and Milford branch manager.
The relationship started about three years ago on Boxing Day (Dec. 26) with the casino’s marketing department campaign to collect canned goods from customers in exchange for free play. (Boxing Day has origins in Great Britain and Canada on the day after Christmas. The word “Boxing” comes from boxes for gratuities given to those who provide services, according to Wikipedia.).
That collection yielded 11,000 pounds of goods and the start of something even bigger, according to Hank Rosenberg, Chief Operating Officer of Hospitality.
The canned goods’ collection effort continues each year, but then the department encouraged volunteering at the Food Bank.
During his volunteer shift where he packed children’s food backpacks, Silicato learned about The Culinary School, and the rest is history.
“It blossomed from there,” he said.
Students enrolled in the 14-week Culinary School program at the Milford branch, spend two of those weeks as paid interns. Some are accepted at Harrington Raceway, and a few become official employees before graduation.
Of the 175 culinary employees who work in the casino’s seven eateries and five bars, most are “back of the house,” said Silicato, and most interns start in the buffet where the pace is a bit slower.
There’s always room for advancement, of course, and some alumni choose to stay while others move on.
Silicato praised the Culinary School graduates and the training they receive.
“In my opinion, the difference between the Food Bank program and the more traditional culinary schools is that I see people (FBD students) investing their time to turn their life around. In the food and beverage industry, you have to have a fire in the belly, a willingness to do whatever it takes,” he said.
“It is a positive life change.”
Employers, like Harrington Raceway, benefit as well.
“This program helps us as much as it helps the Food Bank,” Silicato said.
His manager, Rosenberg, agrees.
“The casino is big on giving back We do a lot for the community, but the Food Bank of Delaware is one of my favorites,” Rosenberg said. “We are proud to be a part of this.”
For more information on the Food Bank of Delaware’s volunteer opportunities or The Culinary School, visit www.fbd.org.