Refined convict finds passion, trains students in culinary arts

HILLSIDE — The Community Food Bank of New Jersey’s Community Kitchen hosts a culinary arts academy whose Production Manager, Daryl Walker, trained there himself six years ago.

Walker was facing a 25 year to life sentence for drug-related charges. He found out about the culinary program while in a halfway house. After years of hearing he wasn’t going to amount to anything, Walker was hopeful for a change.

Chef Daryl, as his culinary students call him, graduated at the top of his class from the Food Bank of New Jersey’s Food Service Training Academy.

“When I came here, they told me everything different. I could be somebody, I could help people, I could be a positive role model, and they showed me how to do that,” says Walker.

The food service training academy offered by the food bank is a free 15-week program for people in need of a second chance, like former prisoners or those returning to the workforce.

Students and graduates say the food service training academy is like being part of a big family where graduates can always return for further education.

“When they’re telling us to do something, it’s for our best interest, because they’ve been through this and they know exactly what it takes to be in this field,” says Tahzia Carr, a graduate of the program.