Meet Chef Kenneth

It's fair to say none of us were prepared for the serious disruption that the COVID-19 pandemic created around the world. But Chef Kenneth Neal says the lessons he learned from Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida's Culinary Training Program set him up to successfully react to those disruptions.

This is his story in his own words:

"In 2014, I had been unemployed for about two years; I was ready for a change. The day I was introduced to Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida was one of the greatest days of my life.

The year before, the food bank had launched a 16-week culinary training program, which is designed to provide qualified, at-risk and economically disadvantaged adults like myself with the culinary and life skills needed to pursue a sustainable career in Orlando's hospitality industry.

Not only did the Second Harvest team prepare me to work, but they helped place me in my first job. I worked in the kitchen of a local country club, honing the skills I had been taught. After a year, I left to pursue my ultimate dream, which was owning and running my own catering company Kolaiah's Catering.

The lessons I learned have proven to be my lifeline during this scary and uncertain last year. Anyone who has worked in the food service industry knows there are peak seasons followed by a slowdown. I can still hear my mentor at the Culinary Training Program saying, 'You have to manage your money to carry you through.'

It's also imperative for Chefs to be able to adapt and pivot quickly. As big events halted, I had to find another way to operate. I shifted from catering large parties and celebrations to preparing smaller meals as a private chef. This is how I have navigated through 2020 and the reason I'm optimistic for this next year as the world continues recovering from this global pandemic."
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