Alumni Spotlight: Orville Smullens

135By Kevin Crean, Communications Intern

The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware is all about second chances. In addition to learning skills needed for a career in the food industry, students also learn life skills needed to thrive in their day-to-day lives. Students who attend The Culinary School are diverse and come from all different backgrounds and places.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Orville Smullens, a member of our alumni who is incredibly grateful for a second chance and the opportunity to attend The Culinary School.

Life was not always simple for Orville. A few bad decisions landed him in prison. Upon his release, he was determined to live a better life not just for himself, but his four children.

“Being in prison, I realized that the life I was living was not the life I wanted for myself. Something had to change,” he said. “I was willing to take and do whatever I needed to turn my life around.”

Upon release from prison, Orville was homeless and without a car. He learned more about The Culinary School through the work-release program. He said that he always had a knack for cooking, so he acted on that interest and signed up. After an interview with Sonia Murrey, our Culinary Training Program Manager, he was accepted into the program.

Thanks to his experience with The Culinary School, Orville learned a “wealth of information.” Among many other things, he said the main skills that he found most useful were how to cook and handle food properly during preparation and how to skillfully use a knife.

Orville’s favorite part of food preparation is the presentation of the meal itself, and he also enjoys how different ingredients can mix and go together to make different tastes and dishes. Orville’s favorite food is seafood, so along with preparing an assortment of seafood meals, his favorite dish to make is pepper steak.

In addition to the kitchen skills acquired at The Culinary School, Orville also found the life skills curriculum to be important. He said that being in prison prior to entering the program led him to have a different way of thinking and socializing. The Culinary School taught him the right way of dealing with others.

“I met some dynamic people,” he explained “ I believed that people didn’t care, because sometimes we tend to believe that some people stereotype us because of making mistakes. They wash their hands of us. Coming to The Culinary School here at the Food Bank I didn’t know which way I was going, but sitting down and talking to the staff here at the Food Bank, it was unbelievable that people were embracing me and wanting to help. Without them I don’t think I could have made it. They were a wealth of help and assistance. It has tremendously impacted my life.”
Orville says he is working hard to become a head chef one day. “For me, it’s not about the position. It’s about making people happy, making them smile and satisfying them,” he said.

While Orville is actively searching for a new job, he is proud to have his own apartment and car.

He encourages others to “take advantage of the opportunity” to attend The Culinary School. He advises future students, “do your best.” “I didn’t believe at first that my enrollment here could take me as far as it has,” he said. “I owe this school so much and I am so grateful for everything.”

To apply or learn more information about The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware, visit


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