Graduates of the Foodservice Training Program are spread all across the Chicago area utilizing their skills to not only advance their careers, but to also serve their communities. Inspiration Corporation wishes to highlight program alum accomplishments and share their stories. Tune in each month to see who is in the spotlight and learn about what inspires them.
Dwayne completed the Foodservice Training Program at Inspiration Kitchens in March 2019. Since then, Dwayne earned a role at Rush University Medical Hospital. He, like many others working in the healthcare industry, found himself suddenly on the frontlines battling COVID-19. In a position where he was susceptible to being exposed to a deadly virus, Dwayne chose to brave the storm and do his best to see about incoming patients. This is his story and inspiration.
Interview with Dwayne (11.24.20)
When did you first hear about Inspiration Kitchens, and what encouraged you to apply?
I heard about Inspiration Kitchens a few years ago when I was living in the Garfield Park neighborhood. I saw students who were in uniform while waiting at the Greenline. I inquired with a student and asked them where they were coming from, and they told me Inspiration Kitchens. I thought it was great to have such a resource in the neighborhood, and after a while I decided that I should take advantage of such a great resource myself. I informed the manager of my job at the time that I wanted to apply, I got my work shift adjusted, and I pursued the program without hesitation. I felt that 3 months was a good amount of time to invest into myself. I really wanted to learn how to cook and make meals. Once I stepped into the dining area of Inspiration Kitchens for an info session, I felt so invited by the staff of the program.
What are the top skills or advice you gained from your training that you currently are utilizing in your current job?
Safety and sanitation are the most important approaches in my work every single day. Cleanliness and organization support a safe work environment, especially with the presence of COVID-19. In addition to that, I have learned the importance of consistency. My ability to be available to my team members, be enthusiastic, considerate, and flexible in my position have served me well. I appreciate the encouragement the Inspiration Kitchens staff provided me as I pursued developing my culinary skillset, and pursued a role Rush.
Can you explain where you are employed and what you do?
A handful of months after I completed my training, I received a call from human resources at Rush Hospital for an interview. Inspiration Kitchens staff helped me prepare my application material and apply. I did a couple of interviews and soon found out Rush wanted me. I have been with Rush for well over a year now, I started in September 2019, and my current position is under the umbrella of guest relations. I assist with directing patients to where they need to go after they have checked in. As far as food services are concerned, I coordinate with fellow staff to ensure the delivery of meals to inpatients. I also see about my fellow essential workers by traveling to different units in the hospital with a food cart. It’s essentially a meals–on–wheels concept and I enjoy every moment of it. I feel like I am finally in a job that I really like and am motivated to be at every time I walk through the doors.
How has COVID-19 impacted you and your family?
I have been able to work throughout the whole pandemic, and I am so grateful for that. Before I was hired at Rush, I worked as a dishwasher at a Chicago supper club. That place eventually closed, and I was let go in March (2020). My role at Rush Hospital became my primary focus and I have been putting all I have into my current position. Rush Hospital had me working from the central kitchen where I saw myself having an important role in battling the pandemic, that being, seeing about people in the hospital through the comfort of food. I know so many people lost their jobs, but I was fortunately able to keep a job. So, therefore, why not do my best to be help others with differing circumstances and have been impacted by COVID-19. At first, I was nervous when I was assigned to deliver and pick-up food carts from areas with patients who had the virus. That was a scary feeling. Working at a hospital, you receive a lot of concerns from your family and friends because you are around people who are extremely sick. Thankfully, I haven’t come down with any symptoms or feeling sick. I am happy my job prioritized my protection with gloves, masks, and stressing the importance to practice physical distancing when able. You need to just be careful not only for yourself, but for others.
How has Inspiration Kitchens continued to be a resource to you as a program alumnus?
Over the last year I have really enjoyed taking the time to connect and reconnect with my fellow program alum through our Facebook group, the Cookout. It is so nice to see my former classmates share pictures of their time in the program, and also share pictures or videos of what they are cooking on a day-to-day basis. My fellow program graduates are all so talented and I appreciate having community with them. I also have appreciated staying in touch with Inspiration Kitchens program staff. The information staff share about community resources is always helpful, plus I can share the information with others.
What advice will you give to someone interested in food service or hospitality industry?
Just go for it. In 2019, I told myself that I should have done this (program with Inspiration Kitchens) a long time ago. I am so happy that I finally made the decision to invest in myself and learn. Put yourself in a good position with caring people and let the magic happen while learning from experienced professionals.
What advice would you give to someone affected by the pandemic and is looking for a job?
First, if you are a graduate of Inspiration Kitchens who has been out of touch with the staff for a while, I encourage you to reach out to them, or follow-up with them. Let them know how you are doing and utilize them as a resource for locating a job, or for resources. They care and are ready to help. Second, take a look at Rush University Medical Hospital for a job and submit an application on the website. There are many opportunities available. It would be great to see more of my fellow Inspiration Kitchens alumni working with my in some capacity at the hospital. If you are interested, ask the Inspiration Kitchens staff for assistance with submitting your application. They helped me with mine.
Since this interview, Dwayne has accepted a new position within Rush University Medical Hospital as a Guest Relations Representative. Congratulations, Dwayne!! The Inspiration Kitchens team is so proud of you. Keep up the good work.