Culinary Student Spotlight: Sean Shaver

aBy Gwen Guerke

For Sean Shaver, a Food Bank of Delaware Culinary School student, an internship at Verde – The Italian Cooking School in Milford, is a match made in heaven. Nancy Chirdon Forster, Verde’s founder and owner, agrees. A restaurateur and caterer, Nancy says she supports the mission of the Food Bank of Delaware.

“I believe in its value to the community, and it’s well run,” she said.

When The Culinary School opened at the Milford site in September, Nancy knew she would want to partner by providing internship opportunities. While Verde is a cooking school, it’s not a training institution like The Culinary School; Verde offers cooking lessons, catering and private dinners, luncheons and classes.

“We participate in the Lewes Farmers’ Market, and we want to be part of Milford’s,” said Nancy, adding that as a one-woman business it was impossible to be at both markets at the same time each Saturday morning. Enter Sean, who was busy making cookie dough for the next Saturday’s market. “He’s developing an interest in everything. He’s caught that food bug,” said Nancy.

Since this is a small business, Sean is learning by doing. For example, on his first day Sean helped prepare a luncheon for 22 guests, a full house in the space Verde occupies on South West Front Street.“I’m so happy to have Sean. I just tell him to yell if he’s drowning,” Nancy said, noting that his help will open up more options for her business and for other students as well.

A Milford resident, Sean is equally enthusiastic about the internship. A retail manager for 12 years, he welcomes the career change that combines his love for cooking with an opportunity to learn and grow. Even as a youngster, Sean remembers watching public television cooking shows.

“Justin Wilson [a Cajun chef on PBS] sucked me in, not just the cooking but the stories, and Miss Nancy has stories,” he said. Sean learned about The Culinary School from a flyer and felt the timing was right. “I’m learning as I go. Chef Tim [Hunter, Chef Instructor] and Brenda [Palomo, Culinary Training Program Manager] have you prepared to jump into the fire. The whole staff, the curriculum, everything is excellent,” he said.

Chef Tim and Brenda also praised the way Sean has embraced the opportunity to move into a career in food service. “Sean has a unique combination of culinary skill and a positive attitude that is extremely hard to find. I know he will continue to grow in the culinary field as he learns more, but you cannot teach anyone how to remain positive under pressure. You cannot teach how to have a sense of urgency, and Sean has that,” Brenda said.

Chef Tim said the internship at Verde seems like a great match.“Sean is one of those guys who has the potential to be a good leader if he has the right guidance. It’s good to start out small. He’ll eventually get confidence to take on responsibilities,” he said.

Sean plans to stay on at Verde after he graduates on August 5. “I’m here, and I’m going to do what I can to help Miss Nancy grow her business,” he said. The Culinary School program lasts a total of 14 weeks, 12 of which are spent on site at the Food Bank learning the basics, including but not limited to meat fabrication, cooking techniques, soups and sauces, studying for the ServSafe exam and brushing up on Life Skills curriculum. The next class in Milford begins on August 18.

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