It’s the people: Grad finds there’s more to cooking than food
February 21, 2023
It’s obvious that Jennifer Jones enjoys her job as Work Crew Supervisor – Café at Kent-Sussex Industries, Inc. For this recent graduate of the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford, this job is more than cooking. It’s also a very strong connection with people.
Jennifer explains that she wasn’t actually looking for a workforce training opportunity when she enrolled in the Culinary School. She was searching online for an application for food stamps, and she noticed the Food Bank. “I thought, well, I’ll apply for it,” she said.
The Food Bank of Delaware’s Delaware Food Works 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 job placement services.
Tuition is paid through scholarships and generous grants. In addition, students may receive free transportation to attend class; gas cards are available for student drivers.
Like some of our students, Jennifer already knew how to cook; prior to enrolling in the Culinary School, she was a cook at a Wicomico County day care where she prepared meals for 80-90 children each day. “It’s all I’ve ever done, and I wanted to go to school for it before, but I put my family before me,” Jennifer said.
In fact, this budding entrepreneur has a food truck – MomMom and WeeWee’s, after her mom and dad – ready to roll out when the time in right. The menu will include soul food, egg rolls, desserts . . . a little bit of everything, she says.
Jennifer actually started working at KSI in Milford prior to graduation last summer; her instructor, Chef Tish, told her about the opportunity, and the rest is history. KSI, according to the organization’s web site is a non-for-profit agency providing support for people with disabilities with pre-vocational training and support for learning and maintaining community skills.
Jennifer works side by side with Kitchen Supervisor Kathy Razz (pictured left); the dynamic duo prepares breakfast and lunch for about 100 people five days a week. But there’s more to their daily routine: each meal has to meet specific and detailed federal requirements – much like a school cafeteria – for nutritional standards, including protein, carbohydrate, and fruit and vegetable components. At KSI, meals have to meet the individual needs of each participant. For example, some participants may require diabetic meals while others may need pre-cut or mechanically softened food.
In addition, Jennifer and Razz – as she’s known – deliver the meals on carts to participants in their respective work areas, the life enrichment program or the pre-vocational skills program.
“There’s just the two of us, and I ride up here from Salisbury, but I love it. I talk about this place all the time, because I have fun with them [the participants],” she said, sharing little anecdotes about how participants enjoy the kitchen crew as well.
And Razz agrees. “We know everyone’s name and their special needs. There’s an interaction that touches us.”
Their care and dedication in the kitchen and throughout the organization do not go unnoticed. “These two people are so special; they take the time to get to know the participants,” said Vice President of Operations Linda Pearson.
“I love to cook for them. They are so happy they’re clapping,” said Jennifer.
And what are the favorite meals served here? Cheese steaks, meatloaf, broccoli salad.
To learn more about The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware, click here.