Food Bank celebrates first culinary class graduation

The Culinary School staff and students include in back (l-r) Beverly Jackey, Gregory Jones, Charles Ballard, Courtney Bratten, Ruby Hernandez, Maria Montoya, James Merrell, Brenda Palomo and Tim Hunter. In front are Leighanne Franks, Nery Matos, Lilly Frazier, Nighferl Matos and Shane Pennell. SOURCE SUBMITTED
December 26, 2013

Eleven members of The Culinary School at the Food Bank of Delaware celebrated their achievements Dec. 17 during a graduation ceremony for the inaugural class at the Food Bank’s newly expanded Milford facility.

Guest speaker Dr. Christine Cannon, executive director of the Arsht-Cannon Foundation, praised the program and urged students, “Remember how it is that it feels today. Consider other educational opportunities. The sky’s the limit. Love what you do, and remember to give back to others.”

Under the instruction of Food Bank of Delaware chef instructor Tim Hunter and the guidance of Brenda Palomo, Culinary School program manager, the 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.

The fact that the graduation ceremony coincided with the holiday season was not lost on Food Bank of Delaware President and CEO Patricia Beebe. “This is one great present. It doesn’t get any better than this,” she said.

“The first class of this culinary school represents long labor. Sometimes it is a test. This is the end of a long test, a successful test. We need to continue to raise funds to support this program,” Beebe added.

Charles Ballard, who was recognized with the class Leadership and Perfect Attendance awards, thanked God, his family and the food bank for encouraging him. A former truck driver who recognized his love of cooking, he told the audience, “It is never too late for a career change.”

In addition to learning hands-on skills in the food bank’s industrial-sized kitchen, the students took field trips to food processing plants and urban food markets. They also worked on preparing and serving at Dinner in the Orchard and for a Trustees of Color reception.

This kitchen opened in September, coinciding with the start of this class.

Following the ceremony, guests were served a lunch prepared by the new graduates. The students featured a menu of roasted red pepper hummus, seafood gumbo, roma tomato bruschetta, sweet potato salad with cranberries and pecans, pork or chicken tamales, orange roughie and spaghetti squash, New York strip steak with roasted brussels sprouts and apples, mac and cheese bites, macaroons, truffles, chocolate cupcakes and banana cake.

The mission of The Culinary School is twofold. Students are taught skills that are highly desirable to employers in the food industry, and their 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 graduates are Charles Ballard, Courtney Ballard, Leighanne Franks, Lilly Frazier, Ruby Hernandez, Gregory Jones, Nery Matos, Nighferl Matos, James Merrell, Maria Montoya and Shane Pennell.

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