Category Archives: The Culinary School

Culinary Graduate Spotlight: Hassan Amenu-El

Hassan (middle) with Chef Instructors Tim Hunter (left) and Sean McNeice (right)

By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Hassan Amenu-El was literally a standout in the Food Bank of Delaware’s sixth class at The Culinary School in Milford.

First, it’s hard not to notice that he towered head and shoulders above his classmates, so at 6 foot, 7 inches tall he’s used to being asked about his height. He takes queries with a good-natured smile.

Hassan, 21, grew up in the Baltimore suburbs of Owings Mill, Md., then moved to Delaware to be with his godparents after he graduated from high school.

He was exploring other job opportunities; he worked in a nursing home and for a moving company before relocating here.

Ironically, it was his godparents who connected him with our Culinary School, a Delaware Department of Education-certified trade school. They learned about the opportunity last summer while picking up their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) box.

It seemed like a match made in heaven, so to speak, because Hassan already enjoyed cooking at home. Shrimp Alfredo and sweet potato pie were among his go-to dishes.

And the opportunity to learn skills and participate in an internship appealed to him.

“I can make it a career. I was interested in the culinary world before school, but I didn’t have any direction,” he said.

He said he enjoyed learning professional knife skills and achieving ServSafe certification.

“Chef Tim was the best, and working with my classmates, we had to become a team,” he said.

The opportunity to intern at Dover Downs was the icing on the cake, so to speak.

During the internship, he was assigned a variety of work stations including the buffet, the steak experience, preparing pizza and cooking shrimp and gourmet grits.

“I learned a lot,” he said. In addition, and more importantly, he landed a job working the late afternoon/ dinner shift.

“My goal is to keep moving up, to go as high as I can go. I want to take more responsibilities and meet more challenges,” Hassan said.

“I recommend this (The Culinary School) to anyone I come across, anybody interesting in the culinary world,” he said.

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

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Food Bank of Delaware celebrates 40th graduating class

Today was a proud day for all of us at the Food Bank of Delaware! We celebrated the accomplishments of the 40th class of The Culinary School!

Despite challenges and obstacles, six students completed the 14-week training program. A crowd of almost 100 was on hand to congratulate the students for their perseverance.

Tanya Warner, Social Services Administrator for Delaware Health and Social Services’ Policy and Program Development Unit provided inspiring keynote remarks.

“For some of you this is the start of a career. For others it’s the start of a new chapter,” said Warner. “Don’t listen to those who say you can’t do it. Believe in you if no one else does.”

Tanya shared her experience as a single mom on welfare and her decision to overcome obstacles to be successful. She enrolled in college, graduated Magna Cum Laude and started her job with the State of Delaware just two days after graduation.

“You’re going to struggle,” she advised students. “The struggle is real as they say, but don’t give up and don’t quit.”

For the past 14 weeks, the students have been 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.

Four of six students completed internships at La Fia in Wilmington.

“I don’t want any thanks,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “I want them to get a job and keep it. This is the only reason we do this.”

Of the six graduates, three have already landed jobs at local restaurants.

When accepting their certificates, all of the graduates were thankful for the opportunity to attend The Culinary School.

“This is a great privilege and honor to be here,” said graduate Lolita DeVaughn. “It has been a great experience. I am very thankful.”

After three attempts, Ty’Nequa Matthews shared that she had finally successfully completed the program. The audience burst into applause!

Last to accept her certificate and the class’ oldest graduate at age 61, April Selby said it best, “As long as you have life, you have an opportunity to change it.”

Following the graduation ceremony, students prepared lunch for all. The menu included lobster quesadillas, spinach and artichoke dip, Caesar salad, bean salad, roasted beef tenderloin, pasta with pesto and peach cobbler for dessert!

Congratulations, graduates:

  • Gary Boyer
  • Lolita DeVaughn
  • Ky’Juan Fields
  • Ty’Nequa Matthews
  • Kenneth Nocks
  • April Selby

To learn more about The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware, please click here.

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Culinary School graduates encouraged to continue their hard work

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

The graduates are: Hassan Amenu-El, Benjamin Beyer, Timothy E. Daniels, Vincent L. Davis, Katie Pettee-Fongeallaz, Marquis Johnson and John Shatesky.

Chad Robinson, Milford Branch Director, praised the graduates and the program.

“It’s the crown jewel of what we do here, the epitome of what we do. A second chance is something everybody deserves, and we are proud of you,” he said.

Patricia Beebe, the Food Bank’s President and CEO, told the graduates, their families, friends and guests that the Food Bank of Delaware is the only food bank in the nation to have two culinary schools, and also holds the distinction of being the first food bank in the country to have the program on site.

“Our graduates show us this is the right thing to do,” she said.

Lisa DiFebo, chef/owner of DiFebo’s restaurants in Bethany Beach and Rehoboth, offered the keynote address. She employs two graduates of the Food Bank’s culinary schools.

“It’s about feeding people, making people feel good,” she said describing the tough culinary trade.

“My job is to push you. The journey is a hard journey, and you either sink or you swim. I’m here to be truthful, to teach you to be leaders, and when you’re done in my kitchen, you will be great. All of you have potential to be leaders. I never want you to forget what it’s like to be sitting here. It’s a tough industry, but don’t leave before the magic,” she told the graduates.

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 prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.

Students have gained employment with Dover Downs, Touch of Italy, Southern Grill, Wild Quail and Subway.

Chef Hunter was pleased with this class.

“This is a special group,” he said. “I tell them it’s not a job, and in this business you’ve got to want it.”

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

Special honorees include:

Perfect  Attendance:  Hassan Amenu-El
Perfect  Attendance:  Marquise Johnson
Most Dedicated:  Vincent Davis
Most Improved:  Marquis Johnson

In addition to learning hands-on skills in the Food Bank’s industrial-sized kitchen, the students took field trips, prepared and served for special events, including the graduation luncheon, and more.

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 Delaware Department of Corrections, Delaware Department of Labor, Delaware Division of Vocational Rehabilitation and other community-based organizations.

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‘Life changing:’ Student describes TCS experiences

TCS John Milford 6th class compressedBy Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

John, a student at the Food Bank of Delaware’s Culinary School in Milford, calls his experience here “life changing.”

The 18-year-old Dover resident is already employed at a fast food chain, but he says he is learning something important and useful every day in the hopes of growing his career.

“I really like it. I’m always learning something new, and I’ve learned a lot about food,” he said.

Now in the seventh week of the 14-week curriculum, John said the classes also present some challenges.

“I have trouble remembering the technical side, but I’ve learned a lot. It changes your whole way of eating out,” he said.

Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware Chef Instructor Tim Hunter and the guidance of Ellen Roland, Culinary School program manager, 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.

“John continues to try, and he gets better each day. He improves daily; he is doing fine,” 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.

John said he already enjoyed preparing simple meals at home, but he would like to improve his skills.

“I would like to try to bake,” he said.

“It’s pretty life-changing. You can take recipes, and from them the possibilities are endless.”

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 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/.

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Culinary Student Spotlight: Tonja Scott

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/.

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Culinary Student Alumni Spotlight: Rory Price

Rory at Desserts By DanaThe Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware has been credited for impacting many lives, especially Rory Price’s. Rory graduated with class 37 in September 2014. Since graduation, he has been flourishing as an employee at Desserts By Dana in Newark.

Rory is perfecting his baking craft by doing a little bit of everything. From creating weekly baking lists to deliveries and making butter cream frosting, mini desserts and cupcakes, Rory is doing a lot  working alongside Chef Dana Hubert, owner of Desserts by Dana and winner of TLC’s Next Great Baker.

“A lot of people look at him as a celebrity,” explains Rory. “I look at him as a teacher. He doesn’t hold back. He doesn’t come off as being arrogant. He is not a drill sergeant and is real down to earth. He takes the time to teach you and to make sure you get it right. He teaches everyone.”

In addition to the on-the-job training from Chef Dana, Rory also credits the instruction he received from The Culinary School to his success.

“The program opened my eyes to an area of life that I knew existed, but didn’t think I could be a part of,” he points out.

“I don’t think about it while I am here. Sometimes I get home and I say ‘I work at Desserts by Dana.’ It takes my breath away. I feel real proud of myself and how far I have gotten so far.”

Rory’s previous experience includes a six-year stint as a McDonald’s manager.

With wedding season in full swing, Rory is working six days a week. When he leaves the bakery, he unplugs and brainstorms recipes, but admits he doesn’t cook for himself.

Some of his favorite desserts to prepare (and eat!) are peanut butter cheesecake, peanut butter and jelly cupcakes and maple bacon cupcakes.

Looking ahead to the future, in five years, Rory envisions himself owning an Eagles-themed sports bar and also running a couple of other businesses.

He still keeps in touch with former classmates and hopes to enlist their help one day.

For students beginning their culinary journey, Rory advises, “Don’t limit yourself in the class. Don’t take it as just a class that is a 14-week excuse to do something else or be somewhere else.”

And for those considering the program, “I would definitely encourage them to find out information as to why why they would or would not,” he says. “If it’s not a program for them, I would advise someone not to do it, because they are taking up a spot for someone who does want to. If it’s something they are interested in doing and jumping two feet in, then take advantage of everything the program has to offer. I say go for it. It has changed my life 100 percent.”

When asked where he would be if he hadn’t enrolled in The Culinary School, “I would be working but I don’t think it would be in the capacity I am working and definitely not as rewarding.”

Are you ready to make a career change? Applications are accepted throughout the year for our culinary training program in both Newark and Milford. Are you food service employer who wants to make a difference? We are in need of internship sites and employers! To learn more, visit http://www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school/.

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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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