In retrospect, Charles Ballard believes that he may have had a lifelong passion for preparing food, but he just didn’t recognize it until fairly recently.
Ballard, 51, signed up for the inaugural class at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford which started in September. The Dover resident, now more than half-way through the 14-week training session, was most recently a truck driver looking for a career change.
A notice in the Dover Post newspaper about The Culinary School training prompted him to investigate the opportunity.
“My parents owned a restaurant in Wilmington, barbecue and seafood. I didn’t want to get into it because it felt like something I had to do, and I was rebellious,” he said.
Ballard says he loves to cook at home.
“I’m pretty multi-cultural, from stir fry to Hispanic, Jamaican and Italian. Normally anything I make, people like,” he added.
So the ad prompted him to rethink his position on cooking, and Ballard applied and was accepted into the school.
It’s been a learning experience.
“I had no idea how structured cooking is, home much time goes into the preparation, and how easy it is to contaminate food,” he said.
In addition to food preparation and classroom instruction, Ballard is enjoying his classmates.
“Chef (Chef Instructor Tim Hunter) told us the people you work with are like your family, and that’s true. We bicker, and then we make up. It kind of tugs at my heartstrings a bit to think that will be going our separate ways,” he said.
Hunter praised Ballard’s performance at The Culinary School.
“He is definitely a leader in class. He takes initiative, and that’s what you like to see. He is the first in the class to jump in and do something. And he has a passion for food. He is the person you want in the kitchen. All he wants to do is learn,” he said.
On Dec. 2, Ballard started his two-week internship at the award-winning Cool Springs Fish Bar & Restaurant in Rising Sun, near Dover.
He praised the program that will launch him on a new career path.
“This is another aspect of the Food Bank I didn’t know about,” he said.
The first class of The Culinary School at the Milford Branch will graduate on Tuesday, December 17 at 11:00 a.m. To attend the graduation, please RSVP to Brenda Palomo, Culinary School Program Manager, at (302) 424-3301 ext 107 or firstname.lastname@example.org.