On a hot summer day, the most heat was coming from inside the IFFS kitchen. Three graduates-to-be were working busily on their final exam: a luncheon for their friends and family. After 11 weeks of overcoming language barriers, transportation obstacles, and a jam-packed curriculum, Sean, Maria, and Nastaran crossed the finish line and catered a graduation feast.
The trio prepared main dishes of prime rib served with mushroom demi-glace sauce and a horseradish sour cream sauce, shrimp scampi with bow-tie pasta and fresh vegetables, zucchini gratin (back by popular demand from earlier in the course), and green beans sautéed with caramelize onions. For sides, they served a big green garden salad with roasted beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, carrots, chickpeas, two salad dressings, fruit salad, and coleslaw. Topping it all off was a desert of yellow butter cake with cream cheese frosting and fresh blueberries, both on the cake and on the side.
After lunch was eaten and the graduates had received their certificates, IFFS Food Service & Job Training Division Chief, Chef Terri Hutter reflected back on a small, but mighty class.
Graduate Nastaran faced – and conquered – two obstacles that many of us take for granted. The first was language, as English is not Nastaran’s first language. Second, while it’s not uncommon for a Culinary Job Training Program (CJTP) student to take public transportation to and from IFFS’ Raleigh headquarters, Nastaran did so all the way from Durham, which can take as much as two hours!
“She’s been taking the bus every day to get here,” said Hutter. “That demonstrates her determination to learn and her reliability. Nastaran would like to work in a small kitchen, possibly in healthcare or daycare. She will be a very good employee someplace and I can see her working there long-term.”
Transportation was also a hurdle for Sean. Although able to get a daily ride, he was dropped off at IFFS 90 minutes before class started. Rather than just sit around and wait, he lent a hand in our warehouse, helping the staff get trucks ready for routes.
“That determination and willingness to work wherever he’s needed will take him far,” said Hutter. “Sean has a real interest in food and is good with his knife skills, safety, and following instructions. But mostly he has a willingness to learn. Sean is looking for a job at a higher-level kitchen doing some fresh scratch cooking using seasonal ingredients where he can learn all of the stations. I think he’ll be really good at that.”
Last but certainly not least: Maria. Like Nastaran, Maria also spoke English as a second language. But it certainly did not hold her back, as Maria was named class valedictorian!
“She did a great job all throughout the class,” said Hutter. “She understood direction and could communicate just fine. Her food looked visually very nice and tasted very nice. She helped outside of class too. She did the Blossoms of Hope luncheon fundraiser with us, working with chefs from multiple restaurants.”
In addition, Maria, Sean and 2014 CJTP graduate Truvalia went with Chef Terri to teach a children’s cooking class at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market earlier this month.
Fun fact: While Maria was enrolled in CJTP, her family was also participating in another IFFS teaching program: Cooking Matters Para Familias (Cooking Matters for Families)! Here’s Maria with her family, and Cooking Matters Para Familias instructor Becky Dobosy, at graduation.
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