The Food Bank of Delaware held a graduation ceremony on Tuesday, April 15, at the Milford location. Six members of the school celebrated their achievements in the 14-week program, which was added as part of the new facilities added to the Milford location last year.
Michael Cook, Phillip Kizer, Kelley McCallum, Uriah Parker, Ellen Roland and Paula Walston were the six graduates of the culinary school honored during the ceremony. Beverly Jackey, the Education Programs Director for the Food Bank of Delaware, said it was a great experience getting to know the graduates.
“They are dedicated, what I call “Six Strong,” Ms. Jackey said. “Some of them are changing careers, while others have always dreamed of a career in the restaurant industry. We are pleased to have Jay Caputo here as our keynote speaker, as he has been a strong supporter of our program.”
President and CEO of the Food Bank, Patricia Beebe, said she was extremely proud of the six individuals who had succeeded in the program. Ms. Beebe explained that the new facility that housed the culinary school cost $26 million to build, and thanked Mr. Caputo for being one of the first to step up and ask what the Food Bank needed. She said that the graduates of the two classes of the culinary school and supporters like Mr. Caputo helped keep the organization moving forward.
“This class was very competent, caring and compassionate,” Ms. Beebe explained. “What we hear from the graduates of our culinary schools all the time is thank you. As much as we appreciate their thanks, the best way for them to thank us is to have a job and keep it.” Ms. Beebe said that the program could not succeed without support from the restaurant industry.
Jay Caputo, owner of several restaurants in the Rehoboth beach area, spoke to the graduates about inspiration, and how it was inspiration that led him to change careers many years ago. Mr. Caputo explained that, like many of the graduates, he did not know what he wanted to do, and simply fell into the restaurant industry.
“I didn’t make dinner with my grandmother or roll pasta with my family, that was not the type of background I had,” Mr. Caputo said. “I got a job and was inspired by the owner of the restaurant where I was working, who taught me that the only limits I have are the ones I put on myself. I say the same to you now, that no matter where you end up in this business, your world is wide open and where you go is up to you. Don’t let anyone tell you no, and use what you have learned here as a foundation to keep learning.”
In addition to presenting the graduates with certificates of completion, the Food Bank of Delaware also presented awards to specific graduates who had excelled in the class. Michael Cook and Phillip Kizer were given the Academic Excellence Award. Ellen Roland was given the Leadership Award. Philip Kizer was awarded for Perfect Attendance, which Brenda Palomo, Culinary School Program Manager said was commendable considering the obstacles that often stand in the way of those attending the school. Ellen Roland was awarded for being the Most Improved. Phillip Kizer and Michael Cook were given the Culinary Excellence Award.
“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” said TJ Roe, Board Chairman of the Food Bank. “It inspires me as a volunteer to see people with such dedication, commitment and perseverance to succeed.”