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Cooking Up a Career

By Tim Brown

Earlier this year, Kate Stanford spent 14 weeks studying at The Arc of the Bay’s Culinary Institute at Gulf Coast State College. In May, she achieved her goal of receiving certification from the institute and was honored at the graduation ceremony with the Chef Paul Ashman Student of the Year Award.

“I really enjoy baking,” Stanford said. “My favorite part of the class was decorating cakes. I hope to someday get a job in a bakery.”

The institute trains adults with disabilities who have a passion for the culinary arts. Students are taught by professional chefs in fully equipped kitchen labs. They learn about food preparation, safety, and cleaning, along with cooking techniques. Stanford was one of seven graduates at the spring 2022 Culinary Institute graduation. This is the institute’s seventh graduating class.

Jacob Fravel is the Culinary Arts Trainer and Chef at the institute. He says Stanford is an awesome young lady and is a joy to be around.

“She was very studious, researching recipes and cooking techniques at home so we could discuss them in class. She is a hard worker who genuinely cares for others and her community,” Fravel said.

Upon graduation, students have opportunities for employment in the culinary and hospitality fields. Panama City has a large tourism industry with a constant need to fill positions. Stanford was recently hired by a restaurant on the Gulf Coast State College campus as a line cook.

“I am excited to be working with people I know and like,” Stanford said.

Her new job is also helping Stanford move toward a more independent lifestyle. She will take the bus to work three days a week for her six-hour shifts. Her parents believe her job will enhance her life.

“We are very proud and grateful to The Arc for training her to be a part of the workforce,” Angie Stanford, her mother, said.

In her spare time, Stanford enjoys competing in golf at the Special Olympics. She also likes to visit the beach and spend time with her two cats, Suzy Q and Kiki, and her dog, Wilson.