Category Archives: The Culinary School

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

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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Become ServSafe® Certified at the Food Bank of Delaware

0223_ServSafe01By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

Starting last month, the Food Bank of Delaware began offering ServSafe® food manager training to the general public. It’s the first time the instructor-led program has been provided for students not enrolled in The Culinary School.

The second of 12 classes was held today at the Milford facility.

Offered in both English and Spanish, the ServSafe® Food Protection Manager Certification meets Delaware law’s requirements of demonstration of Food Safety knowledge. The nationally-recognized certification includes training on personal hygiene, cross contamination, time and temperature, receiving and storage and food safety management systems

During their lunch break, students had an opportunity to reflect on the morning’s work.

Cindy, a Dover resident, was impressed by the course content.

“It’s a tremendous amount of information,” she said.

The students spend six hours in class, and then they take a two-hour exam at the end of the day.

Patty, a Georgetown restaurant owner, closed her business for the day so that she and her two co-workers could attend the training.

“Getting the book ahead is very helpful. There is so much information,” she said.

Jeffrey, a kitchen manager at Chick-fil-A in Milford, needs the certification for work.

“This class is great. It gives me the tools I need to enforce food safety in the kitchen. Of course, ChicK-fil-A already has something in place, but this gives me more,” he said.

Rachel, who drove down from Hockessin where she works at the Drip Café, also praised the class.

“It’s part of work, but it’s something I wanted to do, too,” she said.

Instructor Greg Coumatos, a children’s nutrition coordinator at the Food Bank, said the course contains important and useful information, in addition to the food safety component.

“It covers everything, even how to flow your kitchen,” he said.

For those working in the food service industry, recertification is required every five years. The $150 fee includes lunch and the cost of the test. For individuals who already have the current ServSafe Manager text with answer sheet, there is also an option to take just the test for $75.

The next available ServSafe® program will be offered in Spanish at the Milford facility on April 20. For the complete schedule and to sign up online, visit

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

Group photoThirteen students will begin 2015 with careers in the food industry after successfully completing our 14-week culinary arts training program. Fourteen weeks of hands-on culinary training culminated today with a graduation ceremony held at our Newark facility.

Under the instruction of Chef Instructor Sean McNeice, students have developed proper knife handling techniques, had the opportunity to become ServSafe® certified, learned culinary techniques and much more. Graduates also had the opportunity to work alongside chefs from Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant preparing for the annual Blue Jean Ball and catered a holiday event for 1,000 Capital One employees.

Ernest & Scott Taproom, Home Grown Café, Firestone, Desserts by Dana and Iron Hill Brewery are just some of the local restaurants students spent their two-week internships. With experience in the kitchen, classroom and special catered events, the students are prepared for entry-level positions in the food industry.

Kevin Davies, Founding Partner/Director of Culinary Operations for Iron Hill Brewery and Restaurant, provided keynote remarks. Davies and his team of chefs first met students back in October when the group worked together to prepare food for the Food Bank of Delaware’s annual Blue Jean Ball, presented by Iron Hill.

“This class has so much potential,” he said. “They all can do some really great things in their careers.” Davies also advised students to be dependable, work hard, hustle and do a good job working with others.

“What a great way to start 2015 with our 38th graduating class here at our Newark facility,” said Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe during her address to the graduates. “This has been a great class. I know these 13 students will have much success in the food industry. In the past month I have run into two graduates who now have successful careers at La Fia and the Christiana Hilton. I look forward to running into these students as well.”

The mission of The Culinary School is two-fold. First, students are taught skills that are highly desirable to employers in the food industry. 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.

Graduate Seth Alexander said, “The Culinary School changed my life forever.”

The graduates include (special awardees in parenthesis):

  • Seth Alexander (Highest GPA and Leadership Award)
  • Kevin Davis
  • Kiante Howard
  • LaKeshia Johnson (Most Dedicated)
  • Lavenia Johnson (Most Driven)
  • Christopher Lyles
  • Milda Romero-Medina
  • MaryAnne Mercadante
  • Edna Mincey (Most Improved)
  • Brandi Pitt
  • Tonja Scott
  • Reginald Stevens
  • Whitney White (Best Attitude)

To learn more about The Culinary School, please visit

For more pictures from today, please click here.


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Food Bank of Delaware celebrates fourth Milford culinary class graduation

Group photowebSix members of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware celebrated their achievements today during a graduation ceremony for the fourth class at the  Milford branch.

Guest speaker for the occasion was Chef Hari Cameron, chef/owner of the highly-acclaimed a(MUSE.) restaurant in Rehoboth Beach.

Cameron, 33, and a graduate of Sussex Central High School in Georgetown, spoke about his road to success.

“The trade found me,” he said. “The best part of hospitality is that if you’re a good chef, you can go anywhere in the country and get a job. The only roof you hit is the one you put on yourself. There’s no limit to what you can achieve. Nobody is holding you back. Come with a good attitude, good shoes so your back doesn’t hurt, a Sharpie and paper, and sharp knives. That’s what you need to succeed. The dividends are seeing the smiles on people’s faces.”

Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware Chef Instructor Tim Hunter the students have spent the past 14 weeks developing their skills and passion for the culinary arts. From proper knife handling techniques to Serve Safe certification, the students are prepared for entry-level jobs in the food industry.

Hunter was pleased with this class. “Though this was a small class, these students were very, very dedicated. They were determined to finish what they started,” he said.

Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe praised the students and their families. “The successful graduates you see at today’s ceremony are supported by a community. They put in the work, but they are encouraged by our staff and members of the food service industry, like Chef Cameron. I have no doubt they will continue to work hard and build upon what they’ve learned here at The Culinary School,” she said.

In addition to learning hands-on skills in the food bank’s industrial-sized kitchen, the students also participated in a two-week internship, paid for by the Food Bank of Delaware. Two students had the opportunity to intern at Milford’s new Chick-fil-A restaurant.

Following today’s ceremony, guests were served a lunch prepared by the new graduates. The menu included international comfort foods such as cream of broccoli soup, stuffed chicken breast, petit steak with portabella mushroom, three-cheese macaroni and cheese, Spanish rice and more.

The graduates are: Tierra Butler, Paula Exantus, Mark Heverin Jr., Eric Korona, Ross Lancaster and John Messick.

Special awards:

Best Attitude: Tierra Butler
Highest GPA: Paula Exantus
Leadership Award: Mark Heverin, Jr.
Perfect Attendance: Eric Korona
Most Improved: John Messick
Most Dedicated: Eric Korona

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.

Students interested in applying for future classes, may sign up online at

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Culinary Student Spotlight: Tierra Butler

1201_tierra01By Gwen Guerke, Communications Coordinator

One of Milford’s newest eateries, Chick-fil-A, has been very well received by the community; it’s a busy and popular place.

For Tierra Butler, a Milford resident and student in the The Culinary School at the Milford Branch, this new restaurant has also offered a very satisfying and educational internship.

Tierra, a member of the Milford branch’s fourth class, will graduate Dec. 9, and is completing her two-week internship at Chick-fil-A.

Prior to entering The Culinary School, she worked in the kitchen at Allen’s, a poultry processing plant in Harbeson. She was referred to the training school through the state Department of Labor, and has enjoyed the experience.

“I like to cook and try new things,” she said. “I like the classmates, learning new skills and working the catering jobs.”

At The Culinary School, students learn hands-on skills in the Food Bank’s industrial-sized kitchen. They are also taught life skills, such as resume writing, interviewing and financial literacy. The 14-week program includes a 2-week paid internship, which led Tierra to the kitchen at Chick-fil-A.

She said she has worked at least 40-hour weeks, learned how to use all the kitchen equipment and frequently is assigned to the grill.

“I like it here. I’m just staying focused and learning new techniques,” Tierra added.

Shelby McBroom, team leader on Tierra’s shift, praised Tierra’s work ethic and willingness to provide quality service.

“She is extremely helpful. I can always count on her,” Shelby said.

Chris Hobart, the restaurant’s owner, said he’s quite pleased with the new relationship that’s developed between his restaurant and the Food Bank of Delaware.

Introduced through Milford Mayor Bryan Shupe to Chad Robinson, the Food Bank’s Milford Branch Director, Chris visited the school, took a tour and subsequently hosted two interns this fall.

“They are doing well, and I’m look forward to who I will have from the next class. I have indications from both that they want to stay. I have to say they are probably two of the hardest working folks we have,” he said.

In addition, Chris said he hopes his relationship with the Food Bank will continue to flourish. He hopes other employees will decide to sign up for The Culinary School.

“It’s an opportunity to further their education,” he said.

For more information on The Culinary School at The Food Bank of Delaware, visit

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