A Recipe for Success: How a Culinary Training Program Changed One Student’s Life

Delvin
January 8, 2018
by Colleen Callahan

When Delvin enrolled in the Culinary Training Program at Virginia Peninsula Foodbank about five years ago he had recently been released from jail – a place he’d been in and out of throughout his youth, due to his struggle with alcoholism. A friend told him about the program and suggested he sign up. He promptly did, more so because he thought it would look good on his record. “Truthfully,” Delvin said, “I wasn’t expecting to get much out of it. I certainly wasn’t expecting it to change my life like it did.”

Delvin found the program difficult at first. “The instructors were strict,” he said, “they didn’t allow us to mess around. Being late was not an option. Missing days were not an option. But it was necessary and worth it, because they weren’t only teaching us how to succeed in the kitchen, they were teaching us how to succeed in life.”

Throughout a 12-week period, Delvin and his cohort learned food safety and cooking skills along with life skills such as self-discipline and time management. He also learned how to give back. As part of the training, the students prepared meals for children participating in the food bank’s Kids Cafe program. 

“It made me feel good to serve kids in need,” Delvin said, “And made me realize that I can use my life to help others.”

“The Culinary Training Program changed my mindset – and it gave me confidence and hope,” Delvin continued. “Part of the reason I was in and out of jail for so long is that I didn’t see another way. With my record, it was hard to find work. But when I received a certificate upon graduation, I knew that finally, I had a skill to fall back on – a way to make something of my life. And so, I did.”

Delvin now works as a lead chef at a local pho restaurant – a position he’s held for more than two years. He’s grateful for the second chance he’s been given through the program, and is passionate about using his new lease on life to mentor kids and young adults from difficult backgrounds. 

“I want to help at-risk youth make the right choices so that they don’t make the same mistakes I did,” Delvin said. “But I also want them to know that if they have made mistakes, it’s never too late to change. Just look at me. I’ve come so far from where I’ve been. I’ve got my life together now, and the Virginia Peninsula Foodbank’s Culinary Training Program has played a major role in my success.”