Local Culinary Students to Cater Top Chef

Learning never ceases in the Tarrant Area Food Bank Community Kitchen

Some could argue that a bit of magic happens everyday in the Tarrant Area Food Bank Community Kitchen.

Nine students who range in age from 20 to 50 never cease to learn something new that invigorates their passion for a career in the food services industry. Dreams are being realized thanks to the Community Kitchen Program, which provides free culinary job training and coaching in life skills and job readiness to low-income men and women, some of whom may be employed, homeless or temporarily dependent on welfare.

With the assistance of TAFB supporters and guidance from Chef Manny Vasquez and Barbara Higbee, Community Kitchen Coordinator, these students are steps closer to gaining fulfilling employment.

Thursday, students will showcase their new skills as the exclusive caterer of the 2013 Fort Worth, Texas magazine Top Chef competition. Without the generous support of Sysco and FreshPoint Dallas, these students would not have been able to participate. Additionally, Fort Worth, Texas magazine will donate 10% of ticket sales to the Community Kitchen.

Here’s a glimpse of these inspiring individuals. We can’t wait to see where they will cook next.

Ingrid Del Orbe, 32

Hometown: Dominican Republic
Biggest Inspiration: My family, especially my kids.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? To have a better opportunities and life, to make my dreams come true.
Specialty: Cooking and baking from scratch and Caribbean food
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: The hard work and love people put into their cooking, and the different leadership opportunities.
Favorite local restaurant: Steak houses and Olive Garden

LaTonia Hobson, 35

Hometown: Jackson, MS
Biggest Inspiration: I have to say my biggest inspiration in my life would have to be my six children; three in Texas, three in Mississippi.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? I enrolled in the Community Kitchen program because everyone was like, ‘You can cook, you need to become certified.’
Specialty: My specialty cuisine would have to be Soul Food, Mexican, and seafood; although I enjoy catering.
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: One thing that surprised me the most is the amount of hours they put into their food and work. I think that’s why the food prices are so high. You are at the restaurant and you are like, they must be out of their minds, then you realize all the work that is actually going into it and WOW!
Favorite local restaurant: Wow this is a hard one, any restaurant that has live music and karaoke…On the Border, Billy Bob’s. I actually sing karaoke (smile). 

Genae McNeal, 31

Hometown: Detroit
Biggest Inspiration: My children, I wanna be a great role model.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? It is a personal goal for me. I’ve always wanted to be a chef and this is the start to a life long dream.
Specialty: I love to grill. It’s healthy and I’m going for that type of lifestyle. Plus, you can grill just about everything!
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: The fact that there is so much to learn and you never stop learning. It’s awesome!
Favorite local restaurant: Texas de Brazil (meat lover!)

Cameron Moffett, 24

Hometown: Fort Worth
Biggest Inspiration: My daughter. Seeing her smile helps keep me striving harder each day.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? I’ve heard it was a great program; I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to receive great, formal training. I love to cook.
Specialty: I don’t really have one. I like to try all styles of cooking.
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: It’s a hard industry if you let it be. There is a lot to experience.
Favorite local restaurant: Razzoo’s

Jacob Okubo, 24

Hometown: Azle, TX
Biggest Inspiration: My mother. She did a great job raising me on her own.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? I like working with food, but I want to move out of the fast food industry.
Specialty: Grilling
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: How many hands the food passes through before you get it.
Favorite local restaurant: Logan’s

Gina Poynor, 50

Hometown: Andrews, TX
Biggest Inspiration: My mother––she is my biggest fan. No matter what life has brought her, she still rises above. At 72 years old, she still hits the ground running.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? To acquire the skills of a formal kitchen.
Specialty: Mexican and Fettuccine Alfredo with Chicken
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: How seasonings and spices make food taste better.
Favorite local restaurant: Rockfish

Skyler Sullivan, 20

Hometown: Fort Worth
Biggest Inspiration: My dog. I know how that sounds but without my best bud, I’d still be stuck in the gutter all turned around.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? I feel being able to cook properly is a very useful skill. Finding employment in this field would be nice, but the ability to make a meal for yourself is invaluable.
Specialty: Blueberry Pancakes
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: How many chefs, cooks, etc. are smokers.
Favorite local restaurant: Ol’ South Pancake House

Naomi Trevino, 20

Hometown: Fort Worth
Biggest Inspiration: My mother inspires me. My whole life she has been there for me, through the good and bad times. She taught me how to cook.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? I want to be able to open up a restaurant of my own and donate it to my hospital and Church. There’s nothing else that I would want to do. I love and enjoy cooking.
Specialty: Mexican cuisine
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: Once I walked into the Community Kitchen, it changed the way I cooked. Everyday you learn something new.
Favorite local restaurant: Mercado Juarez

Merna Zakhary, 23

Hometown: Mobile, AL
Biggest Inspiration: My father. He taught me that whatever I put my mind to, I can accomplish. He also taught me to never give up.
Why did you enroll in the Community Kitchen program? I want to become a chef and own my own restaurant/cafe. I like cooking. I have always wanted to become a chef, so this is a lifelong dream for me.
Specialty: Arabic and Middle-Eastern
Describe one thing that has surprised you about the food services industry: The different ways to do things. There is so much to learn, I’m still learning a lot. I will never stop learning.
Favorite local restaurant: Tokyo Café