Success: Work you love with a great all-around team

May 3, 2024

It’s definitely a win when a Food Bank of Delaware Culinary School alumni lands a full-time job in the food service industry. It’s another win when he loves what he’s doing, and the scenario is even better when his employer recognizes his skills and his potential. Sounds like a fairy tale, but it’s not!

In December 2022, Jonathan Flores graduated from our 14-week culinary training at the former Milford facility; he completed his internship at Harrington Raceway & Casino. That’s where he landed a full-time job as a line cook at the casino’s Onion Jack’s restaurant.  For those unfamiliar with a restaurant kitchen, the line-cook must work at a fast, efficient, and accurate pace throughout the entire shift.

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced the closure of the facility’s buffet, Onion Jack’s volume – and hours – increased. This restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including a late menu – from 10 p.m. – 1 a.m. weekends.

“On any given night, we serve 250-350 from 4-10 p.m. from the dinner menu all week. It’ not uncommon that there’s a 2-3 hour wait for dinner,” notes Harrington Raceway’s Executive Director of Food & Beverage DJ Silicato.

“We’re doing buffet numbers, and he works the flat top and he can keep up,” said Executive Chef Shannon Zabel.

Not only does Flores keep up, it’s a pace he relishes. “It’s like a big, happy family,” he said.

Flores, know affectionately as Poppy to his co-workers, is a man of few words, but Zabel and Silicato fill in the pauses.

“This is one of the best crews,” explains Zabel. “They deal with everything that comes up and help other people on the line.”

Silicato notes that Flores consistently volunteers at the Food Bank, sorting and packing, along with the Harrington Raceway team.

There’s praise all around for the training Flores earned at our Culinary School.  Not that it was easy! “Chef Tish [a chef instructor] was really tough,” he said.

“When someone comes here out of a program like that, including SERV Safe®, it’s extremely valuable. I wish I had something like this,” said Zabel who had to go out of state for training 20 years ago.

Silicato explained that Flores’ training provided a foundation for successfully entering the food service industry. “There were no issues in transition, and his job is the hardest on weekends. After 10 p.m. on weekends, he’s got the toughest job. The biggest challenge is that cooks don’t get breaks, but if we’re not busy, they don’t know what to do.”

As for the future, right now Flores says he wants to stay right where he is – no aspirations for management or owning his own restaurant. “I don’t want none of the headaches,” he said.

Through Delaware Food Works, the 14-week Culinary School offers training in Milford and Newark. The program includes 12 weeks of training in and industrial kitchen and classroom, followed by a 2-week paid work experience. Click here to learn more or to register.

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