“…it gives us an opportunity to offer a life-changing opportunity to a student, to a family, probably someone that lives next door to you” – Robin Brungard, director of programs with End Hunger in Calvert County
Experience ‘offers permanent solutions to poverty,’ nonprofit director says
After eight weeks of learning their way around the kitchen, 18 county residents are now on their way to a new culinary career.
On Monday night, the 18 students graduated from End Hunger in Calvert County’s inaugural Culinary Training Program, in which they learned new cooking techniques and different types of cooking to prepare them for a culinary career.
“This is a big change. This is a career change for me,” said graduate Lisa Garrett, who has had difficulty finding a job as a park ranger. “It’s still hard to wrap my mind around.”
The culinary training program consisted of six weeks of learning and classroom training, followed by a two-week internship at a local restaurant or bakery.
“It offers permanent solutions to poverty, and when we work with our community partners, it gives us an opportunity to offer a life-changing opportunity to a student, to a family, probably someone that lives next door to you,” Robin Brungard, director of programs with End Hunger in Calvert County, said of End Hunger’s work training program.
Her favorite part of the program, Garrett of North Beach said, was being introduced to new techniques and new foods she wasn’t familiar with, such as Thai cooking. Garrett’s husband and guinea pig at home, Chris Garrett, said her new cooking techniques have “made things she likes to do better.”
Even at Thanksgiving, Lisa Garrett was trying new ways to cook the turkey and new stuffing ideas, Chris Garrett said.
For graduate Van Trammell of Solomons, cooking has always been a part of his life. Trammell said he has held various cooking jobs since he was in high school, and after serving in the U.S. Army, he decided culinary arts was the path for him.
The Rev. Robert Hahn, senior pastor of Chesapeake Church and CEO of End Hunger in Calvert County, said the culinary program was a perfect fit for End Hunger.
“Hospitality is one of the fastest growing industries in the state,” Hahn said, and cooks are a growth position regardless of the economy. Once he started asking around at restaurants, he discovered there’s a need for cooks. “It all just started to make sense. We’re about food. We’re about feeding people,” he said during the ceremony.
By creating an opportunity for residents to earn “living-wage careers” and become self-sufficient, Hahn said this is an investment that will come back to the state.
Hahn told the graduates, “We are so proud of you. You are our hope. What you have done — I don’t think that you realize that years and years from now, students from future classes … will look back … they will stand in your shadow, and they will stand on your shoulders, and they will always remember the groundbreaking work because you’ll understand one day that more than putting our trust in you, you have put your trust in us and you have revitalized our hope in what people can do for each other.”
Graduate Austin Ritchie said his journey before the program was not easy, and he made several bad decisions, but End Hunger and the culinary program were part of his process of renewal.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the culinary training program. In six weeks of class and kitchen time, I learned more than I expected to, from making pasta and different sauces from scratch to baking cakes, which I had a blast with,” Ritchie said during the ceremony.
Fellow graduate Nicole White, who is graduating with a baking job, said her dream was to work in early child care development, but when she became a mother at a young age, “my dreams were put on hold to fulfill my obligations as a mother.”
Upon learning her son was allergic to many foods, White began cooking different things and enrolled at a culinary institute in Baltimore. “Then my life turned completely upside down,” when her son began to have health problems, “which delayed my hopes and dreams once again,” she said.
In the following years, White said, she married and had a second son. Once they were older, she said, she started to think about what she wanted to do and decided to try the culinary training program.
“I was nervous walking into class the first day but was ready to start the new chapter in my crazy life,” White said. “… I really liked the reading material but fell in love with the kitchen.”
Culinary instructor Caroline Allie told the graduates, “I’m so super proud. I mean, I can’t really say enough how proud I am. … I love all of you for so many different reasons. … As much as you all are grateful to have been a part of it, I’m more grateful to have been there for you.”
By AMANDA SCOTT