When Robert graduated from West High, he had no intentions of continuing his education; instead, he was ready to enter the work force. For a while, that’s exactly what he did. Robert had a series of different jobs over the course of his years out of school, working at places as diverse as McDonald’s and Plasma Care.
While at West High, he had chosen to focus on a culinary career track because he had always loved to watch his grandmother cook—especially her chicken and dumplings. However, his career took him in other directions, and it wasn’t until he had been working other jobs for nearly 11 years that he made the decision to return to Cincinnati State to obtain his Culinary Arts degree.
This decision wasn’t easy, Robert told me. Rather, it was more or less forced upon him when the location he worked at was closed, and relocating with them wasn’t an option due to lack of access to consistent transportation. For a while, he tried to find new employment, but this proved challenging. This and the fact that he wanted to show his son the value of education led Robby to choose to go back to school. The main reason for his hesitation was, he told me, that he’s always been “more of a hands-on learner” rather than the sort of person who learns easily from books. Luckily, he had the support of his family, some of whom were already in school and working with Education Matters (then Lower Price Hill Community School). Through them, he came to our organization, where he found extra support to bolster that of his family.
The path to his degree has not always been an easy one. Although he started out as a full time student, the demands of balancing the unpredictability of adult life with the challenges of course work were a stumbling block that Robby had to overcome. Being an involved parent, keeping the bills paid, and getting your homework done all at the same time is no easy feat, as anyone who has tried to go back to school as an adult knows. But upon deciding to go to school part time, Robby has flourished in the academic environment. With a smile on his face, he informed me that he received not just one, but two of the highest test scores in his life—a 97 and a 96!
Robby’s acquired knowledge about the culinary arts is clear from the moment you ask him about food. In just a short time, he can give you a crash course in the benefits of freshly made pasta over boxed, as well as how to make use of food scraps to avoid waste, which he learned in his favorite class, garde mange.
Robert now has only five classes left to finish his degree, and is working in the second of two co-op positions, this one with the well-known Taste of Belgium in Clifton. One of his favorite things about working there is getting to see the real-life applications of what he has learned in school. He has seen examples of both the garde mange techniques and cleanliness standards at Taste of Belgium, and also gets to utilize his knack for making crepes.
Robby says that although his education has contained both good and bad experiences, they were all learning experiences, and he’s thankful for the bad as well as the good because of what he learned. His ultimate dream is to own his own restaurant, which would have a Southern and Italian inspired theme, but he says he definitely wants to get some experience in the kitchen and as a manager before he branches out on his own. When asked about his success, he said “I would’ve never thought I’d get this far,” and mentioned the support of family and the EM staff as helping him reach his goals. Both his knowledge and passion for cooking leave little doubt that we will be eating in his restaurant one day.