On Thursday, December 11th, the Burlington Community Kitchen Academy graduated 10 students from the 13 week culinary training program. Brian Roper, District Executive Chef at Sodexo gave the keynote speech. Brent Farrell delivered the graduating student speech. And Chef Instructor James Consentino also spoke.

Here we’ve include a transcript of the speeches:

Brian Roper, District Executive Chef, Sodexo

Thank you for that kind introduction and thank you for inviting me to speak today. I’m very pleased to be here to join you in celebrating this wonderful occasion.

First of all, congratulations to all of you. You should be very, very proud of yourselves for accomplishing this goal. Well done. I know you must all be excited to get your hands on your diplomas and run out into the world. But as cartoonist Garry Trudeau said, “Graduation speeches were invented largely in the belief that outgoing students should never be released into the world until they have been properly sedated.”

That’s where I come in as the keynote speaker. I’ll try not to sedate you too badly.

To the families of those graduating and earning certifications, congratulations to you and you should know that your support through this process made an enormous impact. I’m sure you’re very proud of your graduates as they close this portion of their lives and prepare for their next steps into a new career.

Graduation is one of those steps in life that defines a coming of age – the ending of one era of life, as a student or the one being shown the ropes, and moving on to a new stage in which you are a leader, a do-er and an achiever in the wider world. I’m sure many of you have firm plans and have a good idea of what’s coming next, some of you have a pretty good idea of what you want to do next, a dream and a lot of hope to get you there, and some of you are just amazed that you got to this graduation point at all! Well the coming times will be exciting, they will be trying, but they will be all dependent on you and your determination and positive attitude.


It’s been 20 years since I graduated from culinary school and things have changed just a bit since then.

I had big plans for myself. I was a graduate of the Connecticut Culinary Institute, and I was going to  be single for life, never have kids,  travel the world to gain more knowledge of different cuisines, I was going to become a celebrity chef.

You see, I planned to take it easy, not work too hard and enjoy life.

And here I find myself at a graduation once again but 20 years later, my life didn’t turn out quite the way I planned. I  got married and had 2 children.

Instead of traveling the world I spend my vacations at Disney World with my kids and I’m not a celebrity chef. I watch them on TV. And though life didn’t turn out the way I thought it would, I don’t regret a bit of it – I haven’t failed – I’ve adapted, found what makes me happy and fulfills me and so will you.

Life doesn’t usually follow the plans you lay out for yourself. You will all experience the highs and lows of life, the difficult and the easy and, unfortunately, there may sometimes be times of too many difficulties and just not enough smooth sailing. Your true success will be defined by how you handle both of these times.

As you graduate and take on new challenges, chances are you won’t be making a million bucks at your first job. In fact you might not get the first or second or third job you interview for. You may never become a CEO of a fortune 500 company in your life, but that’s OK. The important thing is you have already taken the initial steps needed to build a more promising future. Every class , internship, every certification you’ve earned, they have all been preparing you to adapt to change and challenges. I know it was tough! But as you know, it’s a tough world out there – nothing will be handed to you – you have to earn it – and it will mean more to you because you will earn it.

To give you an example of how perseverance can pay off, let me talk about my time with Sodexo. I started as a mid-level cook 11 years ago and now I am the District Executive chef overseeing 12 pieces of business. It was not easy getting to where I am but it was hard work, determination and a positive attitude that made me shine and get recognized. So do yourself a favor and get up every day and do the best possible job you can do and it will hopefully pay off for you.

You have taken a key step towards your successful future and also the betterment of your family and your community. You’ve worked hard, spending months learning new skill sets. Our complex and technical world today requires education and skills that were not needed in the past. Ultimately – your well-educated generation will benefit us all in the future.

Let me leave you with this thought from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not follow where the path may lead. Go, instead, where there is no path and leave a trail.”

You’re now armed with one of the most important tools needed to forge your path ahead. It’s not the diploma itself that counts – it’s about what you’ve learned along the way and what you do with the education you’ve gotten in your journey to graduation today. Your future is in your hands – no one else’s. Seize this opportunity.

Best of luck in all your future endeavors.


Brent Farrell, Graduating CKA Student

When I signed onto CKA, I was at a crossroad in my life. I stood at the beginning, but with no real sense of which direction to go.

I was given an overview of what CKA had to offer. I was always adept in the kitchen (out of necessity, my mother couldn’t cook), but this seemed to include a more in-depth look into the restaurant and business side of food.

So, with some apprehension, I walked into my first day with CKA, where I met 13 other aspiring cooks as well as Chef Brian and Chef James.

From the classroom to field trips and into the kitchen, these two gentlemen came to show us the joys, headaches, the disappointments, and the triumphs of what it takes to have a successful experience while wearing an apron.

Four people didn’t make the final cut, but they were part of the initial team as we began our culinary journey. What we take away from this is individual in some respects. But all of us learned. From the correct measurement to the correct temperature to the correct ingredients to timing, we learned. Early on, we learned more by our mistakes than anything else. But if a mistake was made it wasn’t repeated.

It was fascinating to work alongside these people, getting to know them individually as well as collectively. Amber said, “we became a close-knit group, where there were no moments without smiles and laughter (both for success and failure).”

Dawa is thankful for the diversity of dishes we created which is helping him understand reading recipes while adding to his skill set as an aspiring chef.

Seth has been in the food industry for quite some time and expressed how humbling and enjoyable it has been updating his culinary skills.

Kolby says he is taking away valuable cooking skills and work ethic and experience, which is true for all of us. The week we spent at Sodexo was trying for some and a joy for others. We left with knowledge.

Ed is happy being one step closer to his goal. A sentiment we can all agree on.

As we learned in the kitchen, we learned in the classroom (measurements to ServSafe). Our trip to CCV was an education in and of itself. From liquor control to nutritionists, to Dr. Fisher and the kind ladies from CVOEO all sharing information to further our development. It has been a packed 3 months and I leave here with clear direction and a new focus. I can’t put my finger on one event that gives me this clarity, but like any good recipe, it takes a pinch of this and a dash of that. Linda said it right: Chef Brian and Chef James made it fun. It had its ups and downs, but overall completely worth it.

For me personally, I have made friends. I have an entirely new set of talents, as new respect for cooking and a very promising future.

So when I say “Thank You” to the Chefs, it is from the 10 of us who took this chance and walk out of here with purpose and gratitude. I’m not judging, I am just sayin’.

Thank you.

CKA Logos

James Consentino, Chef Instructor, Community Kitchen Academy

Welcome to the Community Kitchen Academy Graduation and the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.  We in partnership with the Vermont Foodbank began our tour with this group 13 weeks ago. Many of the students met with Chef and I prior to the class beginning and we were intrigued by many of their journeys.  Some have overcome many obstacles in life but collectively they have overcome the biggest obstacle of them all……  They showed up every day to CKA.  They allowed Chef and I to mentor them and guide them through their new career choice.

This group started much like a joke: 14 students walk into a room, one from Nepal, one from Saudi Arabia, one from Ohio, and, well, you get the point. 14 started and 10 succeed. This group Chef and I will both attest to them being one of the most likeable group of students ever put together. They made us laugh from day one to the very end. Whether it was telling Peter Welch that you would charge him more for his haircut because he was bald and you would have to work harder to make sure you cut every single hair on his head to students standing up and having to sing a children’s nursery rhyme in front of their peers not just once but twice because their cell phone went off during class! We laughed, but even more to the point the students bonded and formed a very tight-knit family. CKA isn’t always about culinary. It is a lot more than just cooking or baking. It is about showing up, working with individuals from different backgrounds, accepting defeat, hitting a wall and, more notably, getting back up.

Dedicating yourself to a 13 week program and two instructors you have never met with intentions of learning a new skill in most cases will turn away many people who are here today. With that being said, the 10 students sitting in front of us today definitely deserve a huge round of applause. Also, Chef and I would like to thank everyone that helped teach, mentor, and donate their time to this amazing class. Gillian and Terri from CVOEO, Melanie from the Department of Liquor Control, Amy  from CCV, Brian and his team at UVM, our friends at Shelburne Farms and Dana our registered nutritionist. Thank you!

In their short time with us they have managed to pull off a successful internship, ServSafe, Department of Liquor Certification, mother sauces, bakery 101, and an exceptional Thanksgiving meal feeding the largest group of guest chef and I have ever been part of here at the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf.

They effectively accomplished all of this and furthermore produced the largest amount of food ever made by a CKA class in 8,018 pounds of food which equates to 12,036 meals or 23,622 servings which helped serve many of the guest here at the food shelf.

In closing I would like to read a few quotes from the students in regards to their time at CKA.

“Its not just learning it’s a life experience.”

“CKA students session 17. We made it to home base! Now its session 18’s turn”

“From scissors to knives, my hands should be insured.”

“I have a chance to have a job I really enjoy.”

“I learned to read recipes and the chefs are the best”

“CKA allows for the opportunity to expand on your horizons through the chefs ongoing training process.”

Finally I would like to end it on this very impactful quote:

“My name is Dawa and I came from Nepal 7 months ago to live with my baby and wife. I just completed the 13 week chef training at the Community Kitchen Academy . At first I felt the 13 weeks was a huge commitment, but the time moved so quickly that it only felt like I was in class for 3 weeks. During this training, I learned not only how to cook, but I also learned how to avoid foodborne illness, and cross-contamination and how to be mindful of personal hygiene. The course has allowed me to pass the ServSafe test and feel confident in my professional skills.

I really like the classroom lessons before we’re able to get into the kitchen. That helped me understand more about cooking each and every day. I continued this training from beginning to the end. Even though my English may be poor, I enjoyed working with a team in a friendly and respectful environment. I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to Chef James, Chef Brian, and my other peers in the Community Kitchen Academy. I wouldn’t feel confident in my skills without them. This is a wonderful program that improves our community and gives valuable skills to so many people.”

Until you have an opportunity to participate in a program like CKA and be around these great students you never can truly appreciate the impact that they can have on you and the community.


For more information on Community Kitchen Academy, including enrollment and employer info, visit the CKA website.