An ambitious young man, Latroy has goals––and two of them involve the food service industry. According to Jan Ward, Job Developer at Hope Haven, Latroy wants to become a chef and own his own restaurant someday. This is not idle dreaming. He’s working hard to learn the business, and he’s making serious progress.
“Latroy explained that his dad went to culinary school,” Jan explained, “and Latroy always had this interest, too.”
So in August 2017, he attended Hope Haven’s career transition training, part of the Project Search program, which led to a 10-week internship in the cafeteria at UF Health. He didn’t mind starting in the cafeteria’s dishwashing area. “He scraped plates, loaded and unloaded the dishwasher and learned about the sanitation process,” Jan explained.
Determined, after the first internship ended, Latroy started another—this time in food preparation. His job responsibilities shifted to washing, slicing and preparing fresh fruits and vegetables. He completed his second internship and graduated from Project Search in the summer 2018, with his interest in a culinary career intact.
Last month, Latroy proudly accepted a job at Palm Garden Jacksonville, a health and rehabilitation center, just one block from his home. The work is challenging and rewarding: He makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the residents and also plates breakfast, lunch and dinner offerings throughout the day. He reviews menu requests and sets up food and beverages according to each resident’s dietary needs.
Jan reports that Latroy is learning how to prepare foods that meet the dietary restrictions of people with diabetes. On a typical day he bakes biscuits and makes lemonade, rolls silverware, delivers food trays to residents, prepares deserts, labels food and handles most kitchen tasks.
Latroy has come a long way from washing dishes, but then again lots of great chefs and restaurateurs started as dishwashers. For Latroy it’s just a matter of grit and determination. As Jan reports, “he’s learning, meeting people and enjoying his job.”