24/Feb/17 / 14:47

Community Kitchen Class 62 Graduation Speech – Jo-Ann Olin

On February 10, 2017, the 62nd Class of the RI Community Food Bank’s Community Kitchen program graduated in a ceremony at the Food Bank’s headquarters. Each class chooses a student to give a speech on their behalf. Class 62 chose Jo-Ann Olin. Below is a copy of her remarks.

Jo-Ann speaking

Jo-Ann Olin giving the Community Kitchen Class 62 graduation speech

Welcome family, friends and guests. On behalf of Class 62 we thank you for coming to celebrate our accomplishments with us. We’d like to thank our instructors (Chef Heather, Chef Ron, and Mev) for their patience and support. We’d like to thank the volunteers, especially Chef Serge who shared their wisdom with us and Chef Ken who provided us with the inspiration as a former CK student.

We know this program runs on the support of the community so we are especially grateful to our guest speakers who provided us with life skills new tools, and to the chefs who came to give specialty demonstrations. We learned nutrition tips and how to prevent wasting food. We also thank the Food Bank for this extraordinary opportunity and for the staff who provided classes on communication and handling stress, or acted as coaches through interview practice.

We all came here because we needed something better in our lives. I had been working in manufacturing for many (many) years and when I was laid off, I was uncertain of my next steps. I needed to find myself. Where was I going? Where did I need to be? I also knew that many fields required advanced education or specific certifications. What would I do? I know many of my classmates were experiencing similar situations. We all had our individual goals but overall, we were successful together as we helped each other out to make the daily meals for Kids Café and to complete major project like the Staff Meal.

Jo-Ann at podium, three-quarters shotWe’ve done so much over the past 14 weeks that many of us are experiencing information overload. Some of us may seem a little woozy, sounding like the Swedish Chef from Sesame Street. Others of us are moving forward in the footsteps of our idols like Gordon Ramsey or Julia Childs, and even our teachers, Chef Ron & Chef Heather or Chef Serge.

Over the years, I’ve also learned that many people in our lives become mentors to us when we least expected it. I know that we will always find support and mentorship from the staff at CK and I look forward to the day when we all will have the opportunity to give something back, either to our communities or to Community Kitchen.

We’ve had some brain cramps (and even Senior moments) over the past 14 weeks as we learned so much about what it takes to work in the food industry. Perhaps the biggest challenge, though, was what we learned about ourselves – to dig deep in reflection of our own lives and to take responsibility for our actions.
We’ve learned to be respectful and grateful. In addition to culinary skills, we learned that we need to treat everyone as an equal, to share our knowledge with others, and to be respectful and work hard.

As we move forward, let’s not compromise our principles – we need to trust our guts. Remember that we always have the support of each other. And we know we can rely on the support of Community Kitchen and the Food Bank in our adventures that are ahead of us.

When I was a kid, my mom would always caution me to beware that the men in the whites coats would come and get me if I didn’t behave. Little did I know that I would find the people in the white coats – the white chef coats – and they are you, my friends here in CK. Let’s remember our fun times and as we work daily in our careers as chefs. Let’s remember to laugh when we goof up Swedish meatball gravy, or toil over picking grapes off stems, or don’t follow the recipe in the correct order thus making glop, or turn up our nose when tasting things that are completely foreign to us.

Here’s our final CK post meal.

What we learned: Attitude is everything

What we liked: Everything

What we can improve: To never give up and to keep practicing our skills and learning more every day

What we’re proud of: We made it here to graduation.

We’ve got this! Let’s keep up our good work and live our dreams.