Culinary grad embraces opportunity in elite new restaurant

0506_stephen_01By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

There’s a new kid on the block in the heart of this resort’s upscale dining scene. Di Febo’s, A Modern Italian Grill, now anchors the corner of First and Baltimore avenues.

Maybe it’s not correct to say new, because DiFebo’s menu has earned a reputation for upscale fare since 1989 in Bethany Beach.

The Food Bank of Delaware has a tangible connection to this dining destination through Stephen Mazza, a May 8 graduate of Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School’s Milford branch. Stephen secured an internship as a sauté chef, and is savoring the opportunity to further his education. So is his boss, the restaurant’s chef/owner Lisa DiFebo.

Lisa says she is known for her no-nonsense approach to operating her business, and admits that she voiced some reluctance when Chef/Instructor Tim Hunter contacted her about accepting an intern. Milford’s fifth class in the culinary school was comprised of 11 students committed to the training opportunity through the Sussex Community Corrections Sussex Work Release Center.

“I was very reluctant, but Tim was pleasant and understanding, so I thought I may just interview him. I told him that I was very different to work for,” Lisa says. She expects her employees to arrive at work early so they can start on time, and she has zero tolerance for drugs and alcohol in her kitchen.

“I don’t have time for it. I hold people’s feet to the fire. I’m very black and white. I’m disciplined,” she said, describing what she termed her “boot camp kitchen.”

“Maybe it was divine intervention, but I decided to give him a chance. I hand-picked my team, and he work well with everyone in the kitchen. It’s important to give people second chances,” said Lisa.

Stephen says he is grateful for that chance because he was ready to learn. In the two months since he started working, he said every shift offers new opportunities.

“I love it here. It’s like family. When I’m doing things right, she praises, and when I’m not, she tells me. I’m learning a lot, more than I ever imagined. I’m enjoying it, but if I had to pick one thing, it would be learning to sauté’. People don’t understand there’s rhythm,” he said.

This recent graduate from The Culinary School also praised the guidance and support he received while he was completing his training.

“Chef Tim and Chad (Robinson, branch manager) were exceptionally caring. I wouldn’t be here without them. I love working for her and Jeff (Lisa’s husband). I didn’t know what to expect, but I’m proud that I’m the first one in the class to have a job. What I like about here is that it’s not sugar-coated, and I needed that,” he added.

To learn more about The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware, visit http://www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school/.

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Filed under The Culinary School, Workforce Development

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