Culinary creations come to life in Lodi, Calif.

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Six graduate from the first culinary arts class in Lodi, Calif.

by Stefanie Segur –

Graduates with their instructors, Chefs John Britto and Barry Crall, and Corps Officer Lieutenant Dan Williams.

This May, The Salvation Army in Lodi, Calif., celebrated a first, with the graduation of the inaugural culinary arts class at the Army’s Hope Harbor Shelter.

Graduation means a step in a new direction and a chance to change one’s life. This is definitely true in Lodi. In not-so-typical graduation garb, a chef’s hat and checkered pants to be exact, six students received their diplomas.

The five men and one woman made up the inaugural culinary arts class at the Salvation Army Hope Harbor Shelter in Lodi. This program has been a dream in the making for years and has finally come to life thanks to the drive of Lodi advisory board members, generous donors and volunteers.

Out of the 30 initial applicants, only six were chosen. Having defeated alcohol addiction in rehab programs six months prior, these students set a new goal for themselves—to leave the culinary program with a new job and a new lease on life.

The six students learned the basics and then some culinary creativity in the industrial size kitchen. Each participated in an intense 16-week college level course, complete with a midterm and a final. Each graduate compiled a portfolio and created a resume in hopes of a successful re-entry into the job market.

On graduation night, the students treated the guests to a meal they had prepared—one that could rival any restaurant in the area. No food was left uneaten, and all had saved room for the handmade desserts.

After enjoying dinner with their families, each student was invited to the podium to receive their diplomas by class instructor John Britto and corps officer Lieutenant Dan Williams. The graduates are: Bryan Loftin, John Havilin, Laurie Keef, Lowell Hunt, Reed Reynolds and Yves Abriol. A surprise to everyone, each graduate was also given a certificate of recognition from the California State Legislator. Each student thanked The Salvation Army for this opportunity. The culinary arts program at Lodi’s Hope Harbor Shelter allowed them to find their hidden talent—culinary greatness. The culinary skills learned have landed each graduate a job in kitchens throughout the state. A few are going back to work for The Salvation Army; one graduate will be going to work in Napa’s kitchen and a few for adult rehabilitation centers across California. The culinary program has given six people the opportunity to change their lives. Classes will commence again next semester, and a whole new group will get the chance to find their special gift.

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