Culinary Training Program Celebrates 5-Year Milestone

Puerto Rican Evacuees Among Graduates Learning Culinary and Life Skills

Twenty-eight students, including three Hurricane Maria evacuees from Puerto Rico, graduated from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Culinary Training Program on Monday, May 21. The program offers hands-on food preparation and kitchen training and provides the skills needed to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry.

“I left Puerto Rico not knowing what was ahead,” said Yamil Davila. “I heard about Second Harvest Food Bank and its Culinary Training Program when I arrived at Orlando International Airport. I knew it was God’s plan. At home, I did most of the cooking and always wanted to learn more. Here was my opportunity to do something I enjoy and create a new start for my family.”

Davila has found employment with Publix Supermarkets. Other graduates have been hired by area resorts, attractions and restaurants, such as Hyatt Regency Hotel, Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort, Rosen Hotels and Resorts, Rainforest Café, Universal City Walk Voodoo Doughnuts and Olive Garden.

Students in the Culinary Training Program spend part of their learning in a classroom where they are taught career and life skills. They also receive employment assistance. Second Harvest began the program five years ago at no cost to students. Since then, it has provided training for 231 people and each one of those graduates have gone on to a career in the food industry.

“We are filled with pride on graduation day,” said Dave Krepcho, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida. “Each graduate has been working hard to pursue their goal. We thank our local supporters for these moments because they help make it possible to feed hope.”

View the Facebook Live Graduation Celebration at the links below.

Susan Reimer-Sifford, Community Kitchen Advisory Committee Chair, provides a brief history of the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen, Culinary Training Program and other social entrepreneurial initiatives, such as Catering for Good and Meals for Good.


The celebration continued with a check presentation from Bank of America to support the Culinary Training Program and recognition of the Josh Mello Foundation Scholar Award.


Guests, graduates and alumni were inspired by two graduation speakers. First, Shandra Petition, a graduate of Class 15, shared her personal journey from being a gas station manager to finding a successful career as the lead breakfast cook at Village on the Green, thanks to the Culinary Training Program. Finally, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer provided commencement remarks by welcoming graduates to the vibrant Orlando culinary scene and encouraging them not to be afraid to fail. Because, every closed door is another opportunity.

Congratulations Graduates!

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