TFRecipeSecond Harvest gives aspiring chefs a recipe for success
TFRecipeSecond Harvest gives aspiring chefs a recipe for success

Second Harvest gives aspiring chefs a recipe for success

ORLANDO, Fla. — You know the adage “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.”

What You Need To Know

  • Second Harvest’s Culinary Training Program is free for eligible adults
  • The program is intended to help those who have faced financial instability in the last 12 months
  • Applications for the next program opens in March with an April 29, 2024 deadline
  • Learn more about the Second Harvest Food Bank Culinary Training Program
  • WATCH: Cooking Up Success: See the whole story in the player above to get a look at the difference Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Culinary Training Program is making

It can also be said that if you “…teach a man to cook, you’ll feed his soul and others…”

That’s the purpose and mission of the Second Harvest Food Bank of Central Florida’s Culinary Training Program.

Chef Israel “Izzy” Santiago leads the free 16-week program, giving adults facing various housing, employment and financial barriers the skills needed to be successful in Central Florida’s vast culinary industry.

Some students come with little-to-no kitchen skills, Chef Santiago said, with some having never even boiled a pot of water before enrolling in the program.

“It’s all about having fun in the kitchen. “Once you’re having fun things change, you start moving faster, you see students understand more, like a team player, and that’s key for a chief,” Santiago said.

The chef brings more than 30 years of experience into Second Harvest’s culinary training program. Every weekday, 8:30 am to 2 pm, students like Paul Cross find themselves inside the kitchen classroom, rotating from station to station. They bake pastries one day and grill steaks the next.

For Cross, this is a long way from his grandma’s kitchen, where he spent part of his youth. He also spent part of his youth getting into trouble.

The 41-year-old started dabbling with alcohol in his teens, feeding what would become a years-long addiction.

He’s now 14 months clean and sober.

“We have a saying in our program, you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, and I was tired,” Cross said.

Tired, he says, of not being there for his family, for himself, and for his daughter.

“You can’t fake showing up,” Cross said.

This is why Cross is in the program, looking to change his life around.

“Students come from all different walks of life, and we have to adjust to their DNA, who they are and the way they assimilate instructions, so we tweak it so they understand,” Santiago said.

Santiago encourages his students to reach high standards, showing their potential and worth.

“For a while I was surviving,” Cross said. “Today I get to live, today I get to live, I don’t have to live wondering what’s going to happen. I’ve been through hell, it can only get better for me because I won’t give up.”

Application Process

Session Dates: May 6, 2024 – August 23, 2024
Application Deadline: April 29, 2024

Session Dates: July 29, 2024 – November 15, 2024
Application Deadline: July 22, 2024


  • Minimum of 18 years old

  • Authorized to work in the United States

  • Must reside in the Central Florida area

  • Have experienced financial instability (unemployment, low wage, government, assistance, etc.) during the last 12 months

  • Must not possess a criminal history involving arson, sexual battery of violent crimes. All other criminal activity records will be considered on a case-by-case basis

  • Demonstrate an enthusiasm for and willingness to commit to the Program and food service industry by obtaining a full-time job in Culinary upon completion of the program

  • Must be able to attend classes for 16 weeks, Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 2:00 pm in person at Second Harvest Food Bank, 411 Mercy Drive, Orlando FL 32805

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