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Diageo Hospitality Program Honors New Grads

Diageo Hospitality Program Honors New Grads

Graduates of the Diageo "Learning For Life Program" stand with their instructors during their graduation ceremony Tuesday evening at the Palms at Pelican Cove.The St. Croix hospitality industry received an infusion of new talent this week as 16 graduates from Diageo USVI’s Project Bartender and Project Culinary programs were honored Tuesday evening during a ceremony at The Palms at Pelican Cove.

The pilot hospitality programs, the first of their kind in the territory, were specially designed to meet the needs of the territory’s hotel, restaurant and tourism sectors. The goal is to get locals more involved in the tourism industry, according to Dan Kirby, Diageo USVI vice president.

“We are proud of these 16 young adults; they have completed a difficult curriculum, and we wish them the very best of luck as they take the skills they have learned into the workplace,” said Kirby.

Diageo’s “Learning For Life Program” began last September with 26 students ranging in ages 20 to 26. It concluded Nov. 19, with 10 students graduating from the Project Bartender and six from Project Culinary. Seven of the 10 bartending grads have already received jobs, while Project Culinary grad Jendayi Setorie-Collingwood has started her own catering business called Sun Kissed Sweetery.

“I’ve always loved to cook, and it is something I have enjoyed doing since I was little,” said Setorie-Collingwood, 21, who has shipped her sweets from St. Croix all the way to Tucson, Ariz.

The participants received 220 hours of tutoring on the basic skills of technical hospitality, appropriate for working in the culinary and bartending fields. The students were in class six days a week for 10 weeks. They also received life skills training to help ensure their success.

With the partnership of St. Croix Hotel and Tourism Association, the students gained hands-on experience by completing their internships in hotels and restaurants. Project Culinary was taught by Chef Anton Doos at the St. Croix Career and Technical Institute, while the Project Bartender curriculum, which was funded by Bellows International, was taught by Jesse Carde, a master mixologist who is the bar manager at Salud Bistro.

“I built the curriculum for the program to focus on customer service,” said Carde, 31, who is hoping to teach the program on a biannual basis.

“The goal is to give kids confidence and pride in their service. We teach them to hold their own behind the bar,” said Carde, adding that he expects to offer the programs on St. Thomas and St. John in the future.

Top bartending grads, Chivonne Stoto and Frank Robinson.The bartender curriculum consisted of basic history of the service, alcohol knowledge and classic recipes. The top two students of the program—Frank Robinson, 25; and Chivonne Stoto, 21—will be representing the territory at Diageo’s International Investors Conference Feb. 24 in Miami. There they will be showing off their molecular bartending skills at a showcase bar for all of Diageo’s investors.

Robinson was the only student to partake in both of the programs, putting in the entire 440 hours of work. He would participate in the bartending program from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. at night for culinary.

“If I know the bar and I know the kitchen, it gets me that much more ahead as a restaurateur,” said Robinson, who one day hopes to own his own restaurant.

For completing the programs, the students received a recognized certificate from UVI’s Community Engagement and Lifelong Learning (CELL) division and certificates from Diageo.

Future classes will be held and applications for the programs will be accepted once the dates for the programs are confirmed.


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