Seven members of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware celebrated their achievements today during a graduation ceremony for the 10th class at the Food Bank’s Milford facility.
The graduates are: Vanessa Diaz, Sylvia Dise, Fred Drew, Kelly Halliday, Frank Harrison, Marret McLaughlin and Chester Reid.
Guest speaker, Kevin Reading, Abbott’s Grill owner, has four decades of culinary experience. He provided the graduates, their families and Food Bank staff with encouraging advice on how to succeed in the culinary trade. Rather than technical skills, he addressed important character traits, such as reliability, consistency, an ability to focus and be present, respectfulness and a willingness to be part of a team.
”I hope in a number of years, you’re up here,” said Reading to the class.
The Food Bank’s Executive Chef Tim Hunter spoke about the positive changes he has seen in the graduating class.
“I’m really proud of these guys. From week one to see where they are today . . . it’s way more than about cooking. It’s about life changes,” he said.
Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware Chef Instructor Tish Badamshin and the guidance of Ruthann Messick, Culinary School program manager, the students spent the past 14 weeks developing their skills and passion for the culinary arts.
From proper knife handling techniques to food safety and completing a two-week internship, the students are now prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry. All seven graduates also successfully passed the ServSafe® exam.
This class is also the Milford branch’s second class for the Delaware WONDER program. Delaware WONDER is a pilot program to provide SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps) recipients with employment training opportunities.
Each one of the students also spoke of the life changes that Hunter mentioned, and those remarks brought tears and smiles to those in the audience.
“I never knew I was going to love this as much as I do,” said graduate Sylvia Dise.
The students showcased their newly acquired skills by preparing a delicious lunch for family and friends. The menu included roast beef au jus, shrimp and grits, chicken and pasta with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and spinach, fried zucchini, squash and eggplant, a vegetable panini, rice with fresh corn and Old Bay seasoning, potatoes au gratin, cornbread, vichyssoise, and assorted desserts.
In addition to learning hands-on skills in the food bank’s industrial-sized kitchen, the students took field trips and assisted in preparing and serving at September’s Dinner in the Orchard at T.S. Smith and Sons and Captain’s Lady charter boat cruises on the Delaware Bay over the summer.