Category Archives: The Culinary School

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/.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Culinary School, Workforce Development

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/.

Leave a comment

Filed under Programs, The Culinary School, Workforce Development

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/.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Culinary School, Workforce Development

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 http://www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school/.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Culinary School, Workforce Development

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 http://www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school/.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Culinary School, Workforce Development

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 http://www.fbd.org/the-culinary-school/.

Leave a comment

Filed under The Culinary School, Workforce Development

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 www.fbd.org.

Check out photos from last night’s dinner!

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, FBD Staff, Programs, Supporters, The Culinary School, Volunteer, Workforce Development