“It’s A Stepping Stone”

The Community FoodBank of New Jersey’s goal is to bring FOOD, HELP and HOPE to New Jerseyans in need.

We do so through many programs that reach people across the state who are struggling to make ends meet. One program is our Food Service Training Academy, 16 weeks of culinary and life skills education.

The students don’t make up a typical class… They’re of various ages and backgrounds, and they all have different life stories. The Academy is a journey to a better life for some, and for others it’s a way to reach their dreams. The one thing they have in common is their love of cooking.

Our current class is underway, and students are learning new things every day – and we’re learning about them. Adrian is one student who shared his story.

The 18-year-old told us about how he grew up around cooking, which inspired him to work at a restaurant.

“I started working about three years ago in a restaurant,” Adrian said. “And, before that, my dad was cooking all the time, so I grew up around that.”

And cooking is what helped him overcome a drug addiction.

“I was really heavy into drugs a few years back,” he told us. “I went to rehab for a year. I was on probation for 18 months.”

He could not afford a college education, but he wanted to “keep learning instead of just working.” His former employer encouraged him to attend the FSTA because “he feels like I have potential to do more.”

Now, Adrian is working toward his dreams, which are to own a restaurant and earn at least one Michelin Star.

He told us he’s learning from his instructors, who worked in the culinary field; they teach him in the kitchen and they share stories about their own experiences. Adrian is also learning about himself and how to enhance his communication skills through the life skills portion of the Academy.

Overall, Adrian told us he is excited to be on this culinary journey.

“It’s a free program and it offers the ServSafe® certification,” he said. “It’s a stepping stone.”