Eleven members of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware celebrated their achievements on Tuesday, December 17 during a graduation ceremony for the inaugural class at the Food Bank’s newly-expanded Milford facility. Director of the Food Bank of Delaware Milford Branch, Chad Robinson, opened the ceremony recognizing that the event was a celebration of both the hard work of each student as well as expansion of the Milford facility that will host the culinary school for years to come.
“Today we are celebrate the accomplishments of our graduates, the first of many successful culinary classes,” commented Robinson. “We also celebrate what has been years of effort to expand our facility and create a culinary school that can help individuals seek the skills necessary to find a career in the food service industry.”
Guest speaker, Dr. Christine Cannon, executive director, Arsht-Cannon Foundation, praised the program and urged students to “remember how it is that it feels today. . . . Consider other educational opportunities. The sky’s the limit. Love what you do, and remember to give back to others.”
Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware Chef Instructor Tim Hunter and the guidance of Brenda Palomo, 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 Serve Safe certification and completing a two-week internship, the students are prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.
The fact that the graduation ceremony coincided with the holiday season was not lost on Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “This is one great present. It doesn’t get any better than this,” she said. “The first class of this culinary school represents long labor. Sometimes it is a test. This is the end of a long test, a successful test. We need to continue to raise funds to support this program.”
Charles Ballard, who was recognized with the class Leadership and Perfect Attendance awards, thanked God, his family and the food bank for encouraging. A former truck driver who recognized his love of cooking, he told the audience “it is never too late for a career change.”
In addition to learning hands-on skills in the food bank’s industrial-sized kitchen, the students took field trips to food processing plants and urban food markets, these students also worked in preparing and serving at Dinner in the Orchard and for a Trustees of Color reception. This kitchen opened in September, coinciding with the start of this class.
Following Tuesday’s ceremony, guests were served a lunch prepared by the new graduates. The students featured a menu of roasted red pepper hummus, seafood gumbo, roma tomato bruschetta, sweet potato salad with cranberries and pecans, pork or chicken tamales, orange roughie and spaghetti squash, New York strip steak with roasted brussel sprouts and apples, mac and cheese bites, macaroons, truffles, chocolate cupcakes and banana cake.
The mission of The Culinary School is two-fold. First students are taught skills that are highly desirable to employers in the food industry and second, these newly-developed skills have the potential to lead to jobs in the industry that provide job security and economic sustainability. This year’s graduates include Charles Ballard, Courtney Ballard, Leighanne Franks, Lilly Frazier, Ruby Hernandez, Gregory Jones, Nery Matos, Nighferl Matos, James Merrell, Maria Montoya and Shane Pennell. A testament to the success of the program, over half of the graduates have already been offered a job in the food service industry.