Success Stories

The Fresh Starts Culinary Academy

The Fresh Starts Culinary Academy has been the source of life-changing opportunities for its Bay Area graduates. Here are a few of our favorite success stories.

Dylan’s Story: Determined to Become a Chef

As a teenager, Dylan Ghadiri did not consider cooking as a career option. His dreams focused on baseball, but his grades declined too much to keep him on the high school team.

“I was in a bad spot. I was in and out of Juvenile Hall,” Dylan recalls. Then his grandparents learned about Fresh Starts Culinary Academy and suggested that he try it.

“Things clicked and life went in a different direction,” says Dylan, who has been assembling an impressive culinary resume since graduating from our training program in 2012.

Now chef de cuisine at Miller & Lux in San Francisco’s Chase Center, Dylan has worked as sous chef at Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg, Picco in Larkspur and at Diavola Pizzeria

Janin Learns to Nourish the Community

Growing up in a family with lean resources, Janin Harmon. learned to make the most of everything and count her blessings. “My mom worked three jobs and we often counted on food banks,” Janin says.

That experience came full circle after she graduated in 2018 from Fresh Starts Culinary Academy. Now she nourishes others as executive chef at C.O.T.S., the Committee on the Shelterless, which offers free meals, shelter, and housing services in Petaluma.

“This job – it really gives me what I need to stay whole,” she says.

Denna Harvey Serves Health and Smiles

Meals play a central role in daily life for residents at Piner’s Nursing Home in Napa, a fact that provides daily motivation for Dietary Services Manager Denna Harvey. 

“It’s a time when they get to talk to people and enjoy something they picked out, even when they may have lost so much,” she says.

This 2013 graduate of Fresh Starts Culinary Academy applied her skills first in restaurants, then set her sights on finishing a two-year program to become a Certified Dietary Manager.   

Her position at Piner’s includes managing food inventory and a staff of seven, interviews with residents to keep current on their dietary needs,

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