The rock musical Rent asks, “How do you measure a year?” One year after graduating from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Culinary Training Program, Susan Anderson measures her year in three words: Courage. Discipline. Confidence.
Anderson originally applied to the inaugural Culinary Training Program class in 2013, but delayed entry because she wasn’t ready. She hesitated to take such a big leap and change careers. Her wages stagnated, she lost her car, and then her home. She reapplied with the hope of a new beginning for her family.
“I was working in retail management and food service but my career was stalled,” recalls Anderson. “Completing this program gave me the courage to step outside my comfort zone and see the opportunities for better wages and marketable skills.”
Anderson always enjoyed cooking. A friend at church first mentioned the Culinary Training Program as a way to give purpose to her passion. Entering the Culinary Training Program meant she had to learn to cook differently. Formal training taught her to slow down, listen to the head chef and execute a skill under his or her direction. She conditioned herself to focus on the task at hand, assess a situation and find a solution before moving on to the next step.
Her most memorable moment from the program was cooking at an event with Sysco. She and her classmates entered an unfamiliar kitchen and worked under the leadership of a new chef. At the end of the day, Anderson was amazed at the food they created and honored to be thanked by Chef Nora.
Upon graduation Anderson found employment at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. “I have a job I love and I’m very good at what I do,” says Anderson.
Her confidence and skills have not only made a strong impression on her employer with two internal promotions within a year, but also on her children. Her two college-age sons witnessed her transformation from “just a mom” to “my mom is a chef.”
Today, Anderson has ambitious goals to pursue a bachelor’s degree in culinary management, gain experience in front of the house hospitality and explore opening a food truck. Anderson says, “I was blind before, but now I have vision to see what’s possible.”
Culinary Training Program, Class 18