Newark culinary class celebrates ‘socially distant’ graduation

June 26, 2020

When the 61st class of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Newark warehouse began class back in January, students never expected to have class and graduation delayed due to a pandemic.

Under the instruction of Chef Tim Hunter, the students spent the entire winter learning the ins and outs of the culinary field. Soups, stocks, mother sauces, knife skills and more made up the curriculum of this 14-week program.  The students also gained hands-on experience working at the Food Bank’s on-site cafe, the Discover Cafe.

Unfortunately, all of this came to a screeching halt in mid-March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Delaware. Classes were suspended as a result, and students finished up the last two weeks of instruction via remote learning. A baking review took place using YouTube videos, and to complete their baking review and final kitchen exams, boxes full of food were delivered to each students home so they could bake and cook. Their final written exams were taken at home and submitted online.

Today, the graduates were finally able to celebrate their accomplishments with a socially distant outdoor graduation! Click here to view a live stream of the graduation ceremony.

Today’s graduates included:

  • Curtis Anderson
  • Sheree Brown
  • Ariel Fortt
  • Anthony Perez
  • Shalil Reynolds
  • Daniel Sapp
  • Hadeem Small
  • Petra Trader

“The past several months haven’t been easy,” said Chef Tim Hunter. “Fortunately, we are all healthy. We are going to be stronger because of this.”

Workforce Training Programs Manager Lisa Grinnage echoed Chef Tim, “It has been a pleasure to work with these graduates. They really had to adapt to our new COVID-19 normal. We are so proud of our graduates for sticking with us and completing the program.”

In addition to hands-on work in the Food Bank’s industrial kitchen, the students also learned skills like resume writing and interviewing thanks to a partnership with Barclays, financial literacy through the $tand By Me program, conflict resolution, team work and more.

Chef Jim Berman, Executive Chef of the Chase Center on the Riverfront, provided keynote remarks.

“Today is not the end of anything, it’s the start of something else,” said Berman. “You sitting here is a definitely a win, so what are you going to do. Restaurant jobs we know are going to be tough. We’ve heard about unsettled times. We may not gain a job right away… you have to work harder, you have to get up earlier, you have to get your knives sharper, you have to explore and network and connect more and be more positive.”

The graduates were thankful for the opportunity.

“I want to say thank you to the teachers,” said graduate Anthony Perez.  “I want to thank you to my classmates for picking me up. When I started this class I was at rock bottom. I had a lot going on. I was able to finish and graduate and I am doing a lot better in life now. I just want to say thank you.”

The next 14-week Delaware Food Works culinary class at the Food Bank of Delaware begins remotely and in small in-person groups on July 6.  To learn more or to apply online, click here.

Congratulations, graduates! 

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