Knock on doors. Take chances. Look for new experiences.
This is just some of the advice Kevin O’Reilly shared with students in Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Culinary Training Program. O’Reilly is the founder & CEO of Satin Fine Foods, Inc. and The America’s Cake Fair, which is hosting its second celebration of cake at the Orange County Convention Center later this month. He recently met with students to share his story of culinary success in hopes of inspiring future food industry employees.
O’Reilly grew up in his family’s bakery in Ireland and later spent time in New York. It was while he was back in Ireland for a short stint that he learned several of the lessons he shared with the students. After several jobs in bakeries and food product sales, he had four months until his next assignment. He walked into a bakery with no appointment and spent the morning talking with the plant manager. He quickly realized that there were no openings and the opportunity to jump ahead of a long line of applicants was slim to none. He took the chance to ask questions about plan operations and workplace culture and bid farewell.
The next day his phone rang. That manager needed someone to work a temporary job at the holidays. It was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up. It afforded him the chance to study alongside the manager, understand operations, workflow, and interact with all departments – ordering, production, packaging, logistics. To this day O’Reilly enjoys engaging with people, understanding their skill set and finding the right place for them to thrive within his corporation.
After hearing more from Kevin and his close friend, Mercedes Strachwsky, owner of Bake Me a Cake bakery in Altamonte Springs, the students moved into the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen for a demonstration on using fondant for cake decorating. The students were able to knead fondant, taste its texture and watch as it was transformed using tools of the trade.