Tonja Scott graduated with the 39th class of The Culinary School back in January. After successfully completing the program, she got right to work at Four Points by Sheraton in Newark as a line cook. She accepted employment so quickly that she was not able to attend the January graduation ceremony because she was working.
Since the hotel’s soft opening in January, Tonja says the brand-new hotel at the intersection of Route 273 and Old Baltimore Pike has gotten busier. She is learning a lot under Executive Chef Rich. Chef Rich utilizes a cooking technique called sous-vide. Foods are sealed in air-tight plastic bags and placed in a water bath or temperature-controlled steam environments for a long period of time.
“It makes everything so much better. Food is juicy and there is no way you can overcook it,” explains Tonja.
Tonja typically works Friday-Tuesday and begins her work day early in the morning. She opens the hotel’s restaurant between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. As the only kitchen staff member on duty in the morning, she cooks breakfast, sets up for morning banquets and more.
Tonja says the training she received at The Culinary School prepared her for employment at the hotel restaurant. Some of the most important skills learned include prepping, multiplying and being able to read a recipe. She enjoys preparing pan-seared salmon, anything with shrimp; and the zucchini with pesto sauce is “awesome,” she says.
Past experience has also been valuable for Tonja’s career in the food service industry. “I have always been in food,” she points out.
In 1991 she enrolled in Job Corps’ training program and completed the program as a chef’s helper. She spent seven years managing the Market Street Subway in Wilmington. Before enrolling at The Culinary School, Tonja worked at Extreme Pizza in Wilmington where she eventually became a manager.
Looking ahead, Tonja says her dream job is to own a gourmet food truck. The skills she’s learning at Four Points by Sheraton are helping to make that dream a reality. In addition to working five days a week at the hotel, Tonja also runs her own catering business on the side.
Hard work has gotten Tonja to where she is today. She advises current students, “Pay attention, don’t just rely on school work. You have to do the work. You have to read. You have to be hands-on. It has to be something you want. if you don’t want it, you aren’t going to get it.”
She adds, “You have to be a self-starter. Go above and beyond. It will take you so much further.”
For students considering a career in the food service industry, “It’s always a great idea. There is always a cook needed. It’s growing, and it’s an opportunity to make great money, enjoying what you do,” she says. “Embrace it. Especially if it comes natural – hone in on your gifts.”
Tonja is thankful for the opportunity she received at The Culinary School. “Class is expensive. It was a gift for me, so I really appreciated it, and I didn’t play with it,” she explains.
“If you are in this class, someone is taking the time to pay your tab and give you an opportunity to give yourself more value. You can never have too many skills,” Tonja advises.
Are you ready for a career change? Do you want to give yourself more value? Learn more about The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware by visiting http://www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school/.