If you visit Constitution Yards on Wilmington’s Riverfront this 4th of July weekend, chances are a William Penn student will take your food order.
That’s because the beer garden has partnered with the William Penn culinary program to provide 10-15 students with on-the-job training.
The partnership is the brainchild of Constitution Yards service manager Veronica Price, who floated the idea to her good friend Kip Poole who happens to teach at William Penn.
“I was like – do you think this could work? He’s like: 'yeah, this could absolutely work.' He’s like, 'We’ve just gotta hammer out the details,' " Price said. "And it started one weird afternoon in March when I swung down to William Penn and was like: 'Do you think that this could be a thing?' And here we are!”
Price says the partnership is a ‘win-win’ – not only do students get hands-on, practical experience, but she doesn’t have to constantly interview and hire seasonal staff. She said it also gives the students more freedom to experiment with fun menu options and try out various roles: rare for entry-level food industry jobs today, she says.
The students are in charge of everything from inventory management to food orders and food prep. For William Penn’s Jesus Garcia, the experience offers the chance to pursue the dream of running his own restaurant: a dream that started while helping his grandmother run a taco stand in Mexico.
“That’s been one of my dreams since I was a kid as I grew up watching my grandmother cook, and I wanted to do the same thing as her," Garcia said.
Garcia plans to study at Delaware Tech for a couple of years before transferring to Johnson and Wales University in Rhode Island. Jadaya Hayden is headed to Johnson and Wales this coming year, and has family ties to food like Garcia.
“Me and my mom used to watch cooking shows, and my mom cooked a lot at home," Hayden said. "At first making it a career path didn’t seem like the right choice, based on money. But my mom did some research, and she’s like, 'You can actually make money in this industry.' ”
Hayden eventually not only wants to run her own restaurant but also dreams of owning a whole franchise.
Price says the William Penn partnership has been a success so far and hopes it will continue in years to come.