Kitchen School students graduate with confidence, high expectations

May 1, 2024

Smiles, laughter, and a few tears highlighted graduation ceremonies for The Kitchen School – the first in our new facility – as nine graduates experienced feelings of success and optimism as they look forward to new beginnings.

Congratulations to our graduates: Dejza Harris, Darius Fields, Shane Lammey, Da’Shawn Lawson, Ja’Shawn Mason, Nassem Rhim, James Spillane, Jack Stomieroski, and Suntama Tupachache.

Our President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky recognized the significance of the event. “This is extra special. It makes my heart smile all over. These folks are rock stars,” she told the audience.

Guest speaker Angie Robles was no stranger to the students. She is co-owner of My Sister’s Fault, a downtown Milford bakery/restaurant offering a variety of sweet and savory Puerto Rican-infused treats. As a guest chef, she visited the Food Bank’s kitchen earlier in the semester to demonstrate how to make empanadas.

As keynote speaker, she told the graduates and guests “what it took to get here.” From an early age, she faced challenges; she was one of three children raised by a single mother in Puerto Rico, and as a child she and her sister helped support their family by going door-to-door to sell her mother’s home-baked cookies to neighbors.

When she was 14, she got a job as a sandwich artist. “I had the desire to be the best at what I did,” she said. “I was working at Subway.” In addition to making sandwiches, she told the students she learned customer service and teamwork, then used those skills to land another job in a Chinese restaurant. Eventually she was managing three Chinese restaurants. But then she took advantage of another opportunity: “At age 21, we learned we could move to Delaware and work at Perdue. I didn’t speak a work of English,” she added.

She maintained her goal to excel at whatever she did during her 12 years at Perdue. “Perdue was my free college. I learned customer service, about quality of product, profitability. All those experiences were getting me ready,” she said.

Six years ago, she and her sister, Rous, opened My Sister’s Fault; at the beginning it was a part-time venture because they still worked at Perdue. They recently owned a second store in Seaford.

She urged students to learn everything they can – as she did. “Don’t wait for the finish line to be successful,” Robles said.

Executive Chef Tim Hunter, Specialized Training Program Director Tee Sanders, and Chef Instructor Shalisa Alexander also praised the students. “These students are always ready to go, and they face overwhelming obstacles. It is my pleasure to teach you,”  said Chef Shalisa.

The Kitchen School is The Kitchen School represents a partnership between the Delaware Restaurant Association and the Food Bank in collaboration with teachers and counselors specializing in work with individuals with disabilities.

The 12-week curriculum has been developed to include group instruction and individualized training in our two Culinary School professional kitchens – one in Newark and one in Milford. Students spend 8 weeks at the Food Bank kitchen in Newark or Milford; after that, an additional four weeks is spent transitioning to permanent employment through on-site job coaching.

Staff also provide instruction in soft skills and employer expectations using national industry-based guidelines and curriculum. At graduation, students receive a certificate of completion and a ServSafe® certification.

Students receive support and develop an individualized plan needed to enter a workplace, including transportation options.

Kitchen School staff assist students in finding partner employers whose needs match student strengths and help the transition into a permanent workplace. Additionally, Kitchen School staff provide support to students and employers for at least one year after graduation.

The next Kitchen School class in Milford starts in June. Click here to learn more about the program or to apply.


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