We first met Crystal Powell during the summer of 2009 when she entered our Culinary Arts Training Program. From the start, Crystal was eager, enthusiastic and showed a real passion for culinary arts! Born legally blind, she never let her visual impairment get in the way of accomplishing her goals.
Crystal’s career in the food industry began at 16. “I rode a bike, something I wasn’t supposed to do, through the McDonald’s drive-through and asked the owner for an application,” she said.” I didn’t tell the owner I was visually impaired and my doctor had no problems with me working.” Crystal was able to keep up with the rest of the staff and McDonald’s management recognized her skill level. She was encouraged to begin management training, but Crystal aspired to be a nurse, just like her mother. After graduating high school Crystal knew nursing would be difficult with her impairment and decided the culinary field was a perfect fit.
Born in Philadelphia, Crystal eventually moved to North Carolina and landed a job in the school system. Upon learning that her mother became ill she moved back north and eventually settled in Delaware. She accepted a food-service job with a local school cafeteria. After the school year ended she began working at a restaurant through the Services for the Blind. When the restaurant went out of business, Crystal filed for unemployment. Counselors at the unemployment office encouraged her to apply for The Culinary School. Delaware Industries for the Blind set her up with a special screen to magnify textbooks and written assignments. She was also offered a knife guide, but Executive Chef Tim Hunter was confident that she could learn to cut properly without it.
After 12 weeks of training, Crystal graduated from The Culinary School among the top in her class. She was offered weekend employment and later began training with the Delaware Business Enterprise Program. This program provides opportunities for blind Delawareans by creating snack bars, cafeterias and vending route facilities on federal, state and municipal property.
Crystal spent seven months studying to become a licensed Business Enterprise Program Operator. Today we were happy to attend her Licensure Ceremony! (Here she is with Executive Chef Tim Hunter (left) and Kitchen Supervisor Gaylan Maxson) She is currently employed at the Carvel State Building and is responsible for overseeing the day-to-day food services operations in the building. She is also the contract manager for the Dunkin Donuts and canteen inside the building. Crystal hasn’t forgotten the program that helped provide her with the skills necessary to oversee food service operations; she is currently working with the staff of The Culinary School to employ other recent graduates of the program! We are so proud of Crystal’s accomplishments! She is an inspiration!