For Eric Korona, a student in The Culinary School at the Milford Branch, the educational experience goes beyond the kitchen and classroom because his association with the training program also created a connection to part-time employment.
Eric, 46, is a Dover resident who knows all too well how tough today’s economy is. He was unemployed for a more than a year, volunteering to keep his SNAP benefits coming in, while searching unsuccessfully for work.
His lack of formal training and health issues connected to Type 1 diabetes caused prospective employers to reject him, he said.
While interviewing for some jobs, he was also told he was overqualified for some positions.
No matter what the reason, he still wasn’t able to land a job, something he wanted not only for himself, but also to help support his elderly mother.
On informal advice from a friend, he knocked on the door of the Division Vocational Rehabilitation Services at the state unemployment office. There he learned that he was eligible for training at The Culinary School.
“I came here and talked to Brenda (Milford’s program manager), and Chef (Tim Hunter, Chef Instructor) showed me around the first day. I was impressed. I got approved, and here I am,” he said.
Milford’s fourth class at The Culinary School started Aug. 25, and Chik-fil-A, a Georgia-based restaurant, opened here on Sept. 10. Because of his connections with the Food Bank of Delaware, Eric was one of four students hired.
He’s now at school from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m., then he heads to the restaurant to work from 4-9 p.m.
“I’m learning their procedures and implementing what I’m learning here. My culinary school comes first. I don’t want to waste the money that’s being spent on me,” he said.
Eric says he enjoys the learning environment provided at The Culinary School.
“This week, I’m the sous chef. I’m second in charge under the chef. I assign jobs, and I have to make sure everything is done the way the chef wants it done,” he explained.
Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware Chef Instructor Tim Hunter, the students spend 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 will be prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.
“Eric has thrown himself into his culinary studies whole-heartedly. He is always eager to volunteer new ideas and try new recipes. He has an admirable work ethic and will stop at nothing to get things done that he feels need to get done. He brings quite the character to our fourth Milford culinary class,” said Chef Hunter
In addition to learning hands-on skills in the Food Bank’s industrial-sized kitchen, the students take field trips to food processing plants and urban food markets.
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.
Students are referred to the program through the Criminal Justice Council, Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and other community-based organizations.
For more information, visit http://www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school/.