The youngest of four children, Johnny grew up in a subsidized housing project in Orlando. His parents weren’t around much and when it came time for school supplies or clothes, he often had to make his own way. While bad choices for a good cause seemed like the right thing to do, he paid the price with several visits to juvenile detention.
Johnny cleaned up his act and finished high school. He spent time cooking with his grandmother and thought he could make a career out of it. The programs he found were either too expensive or too far away.
“Without a support system, I felt like no one wanted me to succeed until I found Second Harvest,” explained Johnny.
As a student in Second Harvest Food Bank’s Culinary Training Program, Johnny spent 16 weeks learning a variety of cooking techniques, safe food handling skills and how to prepare cuisine from around the world. He also found the support and encouragement he needed from chef instructors and staff. “Everyone cared about me. I felt like they were in my corner.”
Outside of the kitchen, life skills classes developed Johnny’s confidence and self-esteem. He also learned time management, budgeting and communication techniques that are already paying off.
“Second Harvest taught me that I don’t need permission to succeed,” said Johnny. “When I walk into a kitchen now, I tell myself, ‘I can do this.’”
Today, Johnny is working at Aloft Hotel in Downtown Orlando as a prep cook. His favorite dish is the fuel cup, a combination of lemon ricotta, fresh berries and pancake bites. He also prepares salads, wraps, sandwiches and parfaits for the hotel’s grab-and-go market.
“Words cannot explain how I have grown through this experience. Thank you.”
The Second Harvest Culinary Training Program provides qualified, at-risk and economically disadvantaged adults with the culinary and life skills training needed to pursue a sustainable career in the food industry. To learn more about or apply for the program, click here.