Twelve culinary graduates start the summer season with new employment

July 7, 2022

Cheers filled the room as friends, family members, community dignitaries, Food Bank team members and others joined to celebrate the accomplishments of 12 culinary graduates. This group of students joins more than 800 culinary alumni who have successfully completed the Food Bank of Delaware’s 14-week culinary training program.

The gradutes include:

  • Trina Chrisden
  • Bendu Collins
  • Mary Collins
  • George Cooke
  • Madison Curlett
  • Jennifer Jones
  • Adam Knechel
  • Britney Miller
  • Matthew Miller
  • Sandra Poe
  • Kicha Roman
  • Zymire Wright

The graduates come from all walks of life, each with their own unique story. Some had worked in the food service industry previously, while others admitted to only being able to prepare French fries and pizza. They depart the program today with not only a new career path, but a culinary family.

“I am very grateful to be here and to have finished this program” said graduate Bendu Collins. “I stumbled across this program by chance. I decided to do a leap of faith in my life and switch careers – scary – everyone still thinks I am crazy. But I had to prove to myself that I could do it. I met these people and we all have different journeys, but we were in the same place at the same time.”

Carrie Leishman, President and CEO of the Delaware Restaurant Association, provided inspiring keynote remarks.

“Restaurants foster community, they knit people together, and they serve up civility in times when our politics are often divided,” she remarked. “It is where everyone gathers to break bread, to be a safe haven, and to take care of each other, their guests and their communities. I feel that you all have done that for each other in the kitchen, and you are going to bring that power of coming together into your kitchens and to your future workforce.”

Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware Executive Chef Tim Hunter and Chef Instructors Ron Roll and Tim Badamshin and the guidance of Sheliah Smith, Michelle Cephas, Greg Oakley and Samuel Dixon, the students spent the past 14 weeks developing their skills and passion for the culinary arts. From proper knife handling techniques to ServSafe ® certification and completing a two-week work experience, the students are prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.

All of the graduates successfully passed their ServSafe® certification; two students, Bendu Collins and Matthew Miller, had perfect scores.

“If you could see the journey that these students took to get here today, it’s been amazing,” said Executive Chef Tim Hunter. “We have seen people grow up before our eyes, miracles have happened before our eyes. We are a family.”

Upon receiving their certificates of completion, each new graduate had an opportunity to address the audience and thank their supporters.

Graduate George Cooke admited to being the class’ most senior participant. “This was on my bucket list since elementary school. When I went to school the guys went into industrial arts and the girls went into home economics. I always wanted to get in that kitchen. We were eating saw dust and they were always eating cooked meals. But life moved on, and I always had a desire to cook. When I first saw this opportunity, ‘I thought no, but I said why not?’ I applied, and – voila – I got into class.”

Kicha Roman was emotional as she gave thanks for the program’s impact on her life. “Accepting me into the [program] was the best thing that ever happened to me. This program has made my life better. Thank you for helping me to succeeed and to be a better person.”

Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Cathy Kanefsky congratulated the students’ for their success and reminded them that the Food Bank’s doors are always open for support.

“It’s incredibly humbling…to know we have the power to change lives, but we only have the power to change lives if those that we work with want to change their lives,” she said. “And every single one of you said something today that gave us the confidence that that’s what you are all about.”

Congratulations to all of today’s graduates!

To learn more about free training programs at the Food Bank of Delaware, click here.



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