Category Archives: The Culinary School

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

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Graduates express gratitude, move on toward success

Group ShotEleven members of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware celebrated their achievements today during a graduation ceremony for the fifth class at the Food Bank’s Milford facility

Students in this class represented a community partnership with at-risk populations from the Sussex Community Corrections’ Sussex Work Release Center. Of the 11 students, nine were in the program.

The graduates are: Gregory Barton, Justin Falkinstein, Timothy Kurak, Anthony Leonardi, Javier Limon, Stephen Mazza, Eugene Pennewell, Richard Pineda, Erick Smith, Keith Truitt and Kevin Williams. All have obtained full-time employment at local restaurants.

Chad Robinson, Milford Branch Director, told the graduates, their families, friends and guests attending the event that this ceremony represented the Food Bank’s mission since each of the graduates had found employment.

“If you don’t believe that people can change, all you need to do is talk to any one of the men to my right,” he said.

Patricia Beebe, the Food Bank’s President and CEO, praised not only the partnership with the Department of Correction, but also the students themselves.

“I told them they are trailblazers, that they will prove to the community this works, but they are also extremely talented people,” she said. “I can’t emphasize enough how important this is. We are really on to something here.”

Guest speaker for the occasion was Robert M. Coupe, Commissioner of the Delaware Department of Correction and retired Delaware State Police Superintendent Colonel.

Coupe noted that the graduating students didn’t just receive certificates of completion, but earned their graduation through hard work and dedication.

“Your sacrifice and future success will ensure that those who come after you have the same opportunities you have had to earn your graduation and create your own pathways to success,” Coupe said.  “I hope you will accept that responsibility and embrace your new roles as team members and as leaders, because through acceptance, availability and support you will be empowered to help others transform their lives in positive ways.”

These students spent the past 14 weeks developing their skills and passion for the culinary arts. From proper knife handling techniques to ServSafe certification and completing a two-week internship, the students are prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.

Chef Instructor Tim Hunter was pleased with this class.

“This is a special group,” he said. “I tell them it’s not a job, it’s a career, and sometimes it’s not about cooking, it’s about life. This is a great opportunity for these guys.”

Each of the students took the microphone to thank Chef Hunter, the Food Bank and the Department of Correction after receiving a certificate of completion.

Special honorees included:

Timothy Kurak – Highest Grade Point Average
Javier Limon – Best Attitude
Erick Smith – Leadership
Stephen Mazza – Most Dedicated
Kevin Williams – Most Improved

Among the audience members were representatives of cooperative employers, including SoDel Concepts, DiFebo’s, Abbott’s Grill and (a)Muse.

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.

The next culinary class at the Milford Branch begins May 26. Applications are currently being accepted. To learn more, visit

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Thirteen students graduate from The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware

This morning we celebrated the accomplishments of the 39th graduating class of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware. Despite challenges, the 13 graduates persevered in order to successfully complete the 14-week training program.

Elaine Archangelo, Director of Delaware Social Services, provided inspiring keynote remarks for the morning ceremony. “Food service is an industry that requires hard work, but has many opportunities,” she said. “Move forward with confidence that you are ready and can move forward with your dreams.”

Under the instruction of Chef Instructor Sean McNeice, the students have spent the past 14 weeks developing their skills and passion for the culinary arts. From proper knife handling techniques to ServeSafe® certification, the students are prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry. In addition to food service skills, the students have also learned resume writing, conflict resolution, financial literacy and other life skills.

“Empowering Delawareans is what we are all about here at the Food Bank of Delaware, “said President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “These 13 students have great talents and abilities. We know they will use them to make positive contributions in the culinary field.”

Class 39 had the opportunity to hold a cooking demo at the unveiling of the Food Bank’s new Bank of America Community Nutrition and Education truck, prepare and serve lunch for dignitaries, including Delaware’s Federal Delegation and Governor, at the launch of the new Delaware WONDER program and hosted a special JPMorgan Chase happy hour at the Coming Together conference on May 4.

Special guests who provided demonstrations for Class 39 include Anthony Carnavale from The Meat House in Chadds Ford, PA, Jim Berman from Gordon Food Service and more. Just yesterday, Chef Whit, owner of the Kapow food truck, stopped by to provide students a tour of the truck. Other activities included field trips to Woodside Farm Creamery in Hockessin, the Sysco food show, Restaurant Depot and more.

Of the 13 graduates,  ten currently have obtained employment including positions at the Cheesecake Factory, Outback Steakhouse, 8th and Union, Little Sisters of the Poor, Two Stones and more.

Graduate Andre Coston said, “It’s been a long journey…you gotta get out of your comfort zone and learn and grow.”

For Ernest Morris, graduating from The Culinary School has been “one of his greatest accomplishments.”

Chaz Smith received a loud round of applause when he told the audience, “I’m a convicted felon with an opportunity. It feels good. It works, if you work it.”

Following the graduation ceremony, students prepared lunch for all. The menu included cheese steak macaroni and cheese balls, leg of lamb with tzatziki sauce, shells in crab sauce, garlic parmesan chicken, roasted parmesan sweet potatoes and more.

Congratulations to our graduates!

Myles Banks
Kevin Banner
Rocky Brown
Andre Coston
Betty Dickinson
Tierra Herring
Kelly Lawlor
Ernest Morris
Alissa Rochester
Chaz Smith
Brandon Spencer
Thomaslina Stanley
Lamar Washington

Special awards:
Most Dedicated – Brandon Spencer
Best Attitude – Chevon “Rocky” Brown
Highest GPA – Kelly Lawlor

The next Newark culinary class begins on June 1. Space is still available! To learn more, visit

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Culinary internship is a win-win for all

TCS Milford at AbbottsBy Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

The kitchen at Abbott’s Grill is bustling during lunch time. No surprises here because the dining room at the Milford restaurant looks nearly full.

Back in the kitchen, Eugene Pennewell and Erick Smith, students with the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford, are learning the tricks of the trade, so to speak.

Eugene and Erick, along with nine other classmates, have completed 12 weeks in the classroom and the kitchen learning kitchen skills. The course also includes life skills, such as resume writing, interviewing, and financial literacy.

The students have the opportunity to become ServSafe certified, and now they are completing a two-week paid internship before Friday’s graduation ceremonies.

Both of these students are enthusiastic about the opportunity to work with Kevin Reading, Abbott’s owner and chef, and with Chef Paul Gallo.

“They will learn a lot on their internship. Paul and Kevin will take their skills to the next level as they experience how a restaurant kitchen functions,” said the Food Bank’s Chef Instructor Tim Hunter.

Internships in a kitchen are hands-on and practical experience. Eugene is chopping celery for a fish stock made from fresh rockfish, while Erick is mixing up hummus.

Eugene pulls out a notebook and pen to take notes, and Kevin steps over to give Erick some instructions on when to add the lemon and salt to flavor the hummus.

“These guys are awesome,” said Kevin. “They even took it upon themselves to come in early. They are learning the foundations.”

Both students expressed pride in working at Abbott’s and the learning opportunities they have encountered, including tasting new and unusual foods.

“This is a life-changing experience. It’s inspiring. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but nothing as exquisite as this,” said Erick.

“This is real life, but it doesn’t feel like working. It’s fun,” said Eugene.

The internship appears to be a winning combination for everyone.

“These guys are pretty good, and they are really eager to learn,” said Kevin, who said he will attend the May 8 graduation.

“With the Food Bank, I am really the one who gets the rewards. I watch the light bulb on,” he added.

The next Culinary School class in Milford begins May 26, and a few spots remain for prospective students!

For more information on how to enroll, visit

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Annual dinner showcases culinary students, thanks top supporters and friends

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

It goes without saying that the Food Bank of Delaware’s Annual Dinner is regarded as a special evening. The event is our opportunity to honor and thank those who support our mission.

Thursday evening’s banquet at our Milford site exceeded any expectations. Tim Hunter, chef instructor, and his nine Culinary School students prepared and served a gourmet meal for our staff and guests. They who also had an opportunity to savor craft beers donated and served by our neighbors, Mispillion River Brewing. The menu, served at buffet stations, was paired with local beers.

Patricia Beebe, our President and CEO, lauded our top honorees of the year. They are: James Buford and Rich Simpson, Volunteers of the Year; The Harry K Foundation, Donor of the Year; Michael Haritos, Supporter of the Year; State Sen. Bryan Townsend, Legislator of the Year, Sussex Community Corrections Center, Partner of the Year.

We are extremely grateful for the time and talent they contribute to the Food Bank of Delaware, and over the next week, we will feature each honoree in a separate blog. Stay tuned!

During the week prior to the dinner, staff members received an email from Pat: tie dye shirts were mandatory for the occasion. Those of us who’ve been here for awhile know that’s code for “auspicious occasion.”

To set the tone for the evening, Pat took an opportunity before dinner to recognize all 60 members of the Food Bank’s staff, calling them by department up to the podium, to thank us for the hard work we’re doing and for our dedication to the people we serve.

After dinner, the evening got a bit emotional as Pat put aside her notes to praise the partnership between the Sussex Community Corrections’ Sussex Work Release Center, noting that the nine Culinary School students who prepared our dinner were associated with the center in Georgetown.

Guests could see that the students were proud of their accomplishments, that they respected Chef Hunter and “Miss Pat,” that the Culinary School made a big difference in their lives, that they were looking forward to internships, to the May 8 graduation ceremonies, and to meaningful employment opportunities.

The details of that story, and more, are left for another day.

For more information on how to volunteer and support the Food Bank of Delaware, visit

Check out photos from last night’s dinner!

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Newest staff member renews Food Bank connections

???????????????????????????????By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Ellen Roland is the new Culinary School program manager for the Food Bank of Delaware’s Milford branch. Although she’s new to the position, she is not unfamiliar with the Food Bank. She brings a wealth of experience, including one that’s unique: she is a graduate of the program as well.

“I think I have a different perspective. Because I was a student, I have the best of both worlds,” she said.

And Chad Robinson, Milford’s branch director, agrees.

“We are happy to have Ellen join our team at the Food Bank of Delaware.  As a former student, we know Ellen will bring unique insight into helping us grow our program,” he said.

The Culinary School is a 14-week program for adults. It is also a certified trade school by the Delaware Department of Education.

Ellen, a New York native, moved to Milford about 18 months ago when her husband’s job transferred him to the area. Her background is in the retail world, managing and opening up new stores.

She’s the youngest of 12 children, and when her mother became ill, she put her retail career on hold to become a caretaker.

When it was time to re-enter the working world six years later, Ellen took a second look at her skills and thought about opening a catering business, specifically one geared toward weddings.

Prompted by a notice in the newspaper, she enrolled in The Culinary School and graduated with Milford’s second class.

“I’ve always loved to cook, and I’ve always been around food,” she said, adding that her mother regularly made home-made pastas and bread.

“I was brought up old school.”

Ellen said her experience at The Culinary School provided valuable education, complementing what she already learned in the retail world, even though she didn’t go to work in a restaurant after her graduation.

She said that Chef Instructor Tim Hunter encouraged her to seek opportunities in “the front of house,” the food service term for the dining room, as opposed to the kitchen.

So when she learned about the opening for a program manager here, she applied.

Still new to the job, Ellen says she is enjoying not only the challenges of learning her new responsibilities, but also helping students become successful.

The students in the current class will graduate on Friday, May 8, so they are moving into their two-week internships very soon.

“It’s so great to be able to help people, so gratifying,” she said.

In addition, Ellen is now working to populate the next class of students by scheduling interviews with possible recruits.

“I’m excited and proud to be a part of the Food Bank team,” she said.

For more information on The Culinary School, visit

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Culinary Student Spotlight: Andre Coston

Andre ColstonThe Newark culinary class is currently in week five of fourteen, but student Andre Coston is already looking forward to his two-week internship starting in week 12 and full-time employment upon graduation.

After being laid off from his position at a local nonprofit as an assistant clinician, Andre learned about the training opportunity through the Department of Labor. He was thankful to have received a scholarship to attend the program.

“I liked what I did before, but I didn’t love it,” he said. “I really love to cook, so I am ready for a career change. I came to the realization at 42 years old, that until it is time to retire, I will pursue a career in the culinary field.”

So far, Andre has learned about basic kitchen skills such as knife handling, time and temperature.

His newly-developed skills will not only help him gain future employment, but are helping now  in his day-to-day life. He currently cares for his 90-year-old grandfather.

“His wife passed away in August, so he is very dependent on me,” he explained. “He doesn’t walk and goes to dialysis three times a week. I cook all of his meals. He loves my cooking.”

Some of his favorite dishes to prepare include lasagna and anything with seafood.

“After graduation I want to be somewhere where there is room for growth and where I can learn and move up to an executive chef – that is my goal – to be an executive chef in a hotel or a fine dining establishment,” he said.

Until then, Andre is focused on learning more in class and upgrading his skills.

To learn more about The Culinary School, please visit



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