Like many of the students who arrive at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Delaware Food Works Culinary School, Stephen Marinari found that the 14-week program exceeded any expectations he brought with him. After all, it was sort of a last-ditch effort.
This Lewes-area resident had a successful and lucrative career in IT for more than 30 years, but when faced with a life-threatening illness, he looked at his previous career from a new perspective. “Then cancer struck – stage 4 cancer of the neck, and I decided I didn’t want to go back to a corporate job,” he said.
That decision meant significant lifestyle changes for him. “My unemployment ran out. I had to sell my house with a pool and move in with my niece. She’s wonderful. I was on food stamps. Nobody was hiring a 58-year-old guy with cancer,” Marinari said.
So, he looked at something he enjoyed as a possible alternative. Cooking. “I cooked at home, like if I had a bad day at work, I came home and cooked. I knew how to cook, but not in a commercial kitchen,” said this father of two adult daughters. “I love it here. I’ve done well.”
Here, for him, is the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School. With commercial kitchens and a state-approved workforce development program, Marinari attends classes at our Milford site under the direction of Chef Tish, a professional chef instructor.
As a component of Delaware Food Works, the Culinary School is a 14-week program for unemployed, underemployed, ex-offenders, individuals with disabilities and those in career transition that teaches basic and high-end kitchen skills, ServSafe ® training, and life skills, culminating with a 2-week, paid work experience.
Marinari started his work experience weeks ahead of schedule: thanks to Chef Tish’s professional connections with chef/ owner Megan Kee, he’s now a sous chef at Dalmata, a newly opened casual Italian restaurant in Rehoboth Beach. Kee has created two other highly acclaimed, upscale Rehoboth restaurants: La Fable, a French bistro and Houston White, a steakhouse.
“Chef Tish really cares about us. I go to class, and I get sent out to a new career,” Marinari said.
Although he is putting in long hours – attending school and working four days a week – Marinari is excited about his future. “This place has turned my whole life around. It’s a hell of a story. This is going to save me,” he said.
He will graduate with his classmates in a small ceremony on June. 28 in Milford.
CLick here to learn more about the Culinary School and other Delaware Food Works training programs.