Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida not only provides meals for families facing financial struggles, but offers a free culinary training program to help adults find work.
“I came into Second Harvest looking for food because I didn’t have any food, and they said, ‘Have you heard about our culinary program?’” Coreyyion Morris said.
Morris, 24, said she is living on her own in Orlando, having a difficult time trying to make ends meet right now.
“My family is not supportive of me. I’m trying to make it on my own,” she said.
But Morris has found a new family and support with Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
“They think I’m better than what I think of myself,” said Morris. “They don’t know my background, they don’t know where I came from. For them to be able to support me 100% and show me what they see in me, that’s a blessing. No one’s ever there to tell me what they see in me. They sat me down and said, ‘Don’t give up.’”
Morris is one of dozens of students currently enrolled in the culinary training program at Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida.
The 16-week program is free for qualified applicants. Once enrolled, students learn the ins and outs of working in a commercial kitchen, including food safety skills, meal preparation, knife skills and different cooking methods, all of which are important traits to get into the culinary industry, a constantly growing job pool in the hospitality hub of Central Florida.
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The culinary program is run by chef Israel Santiago, who said the focus is on food, seasoned with skills they can use outside the kitchen.
“We also try to prepare our students with life skills. How to interview, how to dress for an interview, how to create a resume. It’s like a restart,” said Santiago.
A restart is something Santiago can relate to. He moved to Orlando from Puerto Rico, finding a new passion in the kitchen.
“Many years ago, I wanted to do something different. I didn’t want to be behind a desk. I found freedom in the kitchen. Freedom to express myself with flavor profiles,” said Santiago.
The chef also offers support to students like Morris, who are trying to get back on their feet.
“They make me feel like I have something when I walk out of these doors. That I have a future to look ahead to. Before that, I didn’t know what I was going to do, where’d I be in my life and I really appreciate that,” Morris said.
Morris said she’d like to run her own catering business one day. The culinary program is helping to set her up with job opportunities.
A new culinary class will begin in May. Click HERE to access the application.
Chef Santiago’s Sweet Corn Fritters Recipe
2.5 C Corn fresh off the cob
1 C Grated Zucchini
2 Garlic cloves minced
2 Scallions chopped
1/2 C Milk
4 oz. Goat cheese softened
1 C Flour all-purpose
1 tsp. Baking powder
1/4 C Honey
1/2 tsp. Crushed red pepper
1. In a small bowl, stir crushed red pepper into honey. Set asside.
2. In a large bowl, stir together corn, zucchini, garlic, scallions and egg and cheese. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
3. In a small bowl stir together flour and baking powder.
4. Stir flour mixture into wet mixture and then slowly stir in the milk. Batter should have the same consistency as a pancake batter.
5. Heat a large skillet over medium/high heat with just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is heated, reduce to medium.
6. Using a large spoon, scoop batter into hot oil. Cook 2-3 minutes per side, until golden brown.
7. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel lined plate to help rid excess oil. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt.