When Luzmary Gomez was 17, she found herself thousands of miles away from her hometown, her extended family and her friends. She fled the political unrest and violence in Venezuela with her mother and younger siblings for a chance at a better life.
Luzmary arrived in Orlando unable to speak English and with limited skills in foodservice but was determined to overcome any obstacle to pursue her dream of being a pastry chef. She completed high school and worked at a local fast-food restaurant to help her mother pay rent. There was little leftover in the budget each month for necessities. The idea of paying for culinary school was unthinkable.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida offered Luzmary an opportunity to gain the experience she needed to pursue her dream at no cost. Over the course of 16 weeks, she worked diligently to learn as much as she could about food safety, sanitation, knife skills and executing a variety of recipes, sweet and savory. She also learned essential communication and teamwork skills.
"I'm very grateful to learn in a professional kitchen and have such a valuable experience," said Luzmary.
One of the most pivotal moments for Luzmary was watching two Second Harvest Culinary Training Program graduates compete at the American Culinary Federation conference in Orlando. Clarimar and Yoleida placed first and third respectively in the wedding cake competition, winning the hearts of the judges and Luzmary. Both were glad to pay it forward and mentor Luzmary.
At graduation, Luzmary began working at Hyatt Regency Orlando as a pastry cook. Her enthusiasm and eagerness to learn was recognized by the AHLA Foundation's Empowering Youth Program. This apprenticeship opportunity will help Luzmary advance in her career through hands-on learning in the hospitality industry.
"Thank you so much for giving me this opportunity and showing me that dreams do come true."
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.