US Foods Scholars program
We proudly support programs that help underserved youth reach their culinary dreams. That’s why, in August 2017, we launched our US Foods® Scholars program.
US Foods Scholars awards financial support and professional development opportunities to students who plan to pursue an education in the culinary arts and enter the restaurant industry. We work with our partners, the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) and the American Culinary Federation (ACF), to identify deserving students who have demonstrated outstanding potential and achievement in the culinary arts and require additional resources to take the next step of their culinary journey. The program aims to inspire students to reach their full potential and contribute a meaningful solution to the talent shortage facing the restaurant industry.
US Foods Scholars began in Chicago and Arizona and now supports scholars in five additional markets, including Atlanta, Austin, Denver, New York City and Raleigh.
In March 2019, we welcomed seven new scholars to the program and will name an additional 17 scholars throughout the year.
2019 US Foods Scholars
Raleigh, North Carolina
Amber Fuqua is a hospitality management student at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina. She started cooking at a young age after her dad asked her to prepare dinner each night for the family while he was at work. Amber’s dad bought her a variety of cookbooks to help her learn the ropes, and naturally, she developed a passion for all things food.
Growing up, Amber and her family faced several hardships, but they worked together to make the most of what they had. Her childhood gave her a true appreciation for being able to put food on the table. Amber’s experiences have stuck with her and have inspired her to pursue a career in the culinary arts and get involved with organizations like the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina.
Being a US Foods Scholar will allow Amber to continue her education in hospitality management after graduating from Wake Technical Community College in summer 2019. Her goal is to become a wedding planner and to continue her involvement in the fight against hunger.
Fun Facts about Amber
Favorite dish: “Potato casserole! I also really love to bake anything sweet, preferably brownies.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “My most memorable moment was the first time I cooked pho, a popular Vietnamese dish, with my boyfriend. It connected us relationally, as well as culturally.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “Accepting this award fills me with gratification because I have now been exposed to both ends of the spectrum. By this, I simply mean that I know what it is like to go without food, as well as what it is like to be in a financially stable situation that allows you to truly enjoy what you eat.”
Angel’o Hill is a student at the Art Institute of Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia. He is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in culinary arts management.
For the last 14 years, Angel’o has used cooking to unite family and friends and create memories. He learned that his food brought people together and helped mend issues with loved ones. This inspired him to go back to school to expand his culinary knowledge and ultimately, pursue a career in the industry.
As a US Foods Scholar, Angel’o hopes to learn more about global cuisines and fine dining through mentorship opportunities and continued education. After he graduates from the Art Institute of Atlanta, he plans to attend Georgia State University, also in Atlanta, to obtain a master’s degree in hospitality management. Angel’o’s goal is to become a travel consultant focused on culinary experiences. Eventually, he wants to develop restaurant chains that cater to a wide variety of styles and cultures.
Fun Facts about Angel’o
Favorite dish: “I can’t pick just one! A few of my go-to favorites are quiche; cilantro, lime and garlic chicken with yellow infused rice; and lamb with garlic mashed potatoes and fresh arugula salad.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “My most memorable moment in the kitchen was Thanksgiving 2018, when I was the sous chef at a high-end independent retirement living facility. It was great to be in the kitchen and be able to serve and bless the residents with a great Thanksgiving meal.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “It shows me that I have the opportunity to be greater and succeed. It inspires me to be an example for future culinary students.”
Destinee Chatman is a baking and pastry student at the Art Institute of Atlanta in Atlanta, Georgia.
Destinee was five years old when she started following her grandmother around the kitchen and watching her whip up creative recipes using whatever ingredients were on hand. As she got older, she discovered food personalities like Buddy Valastro, Rachael Ray and Ree Drummond and grew to admire their passion for cooking and ability to make connections through food. After years of watching her idols cook, Destinee realized it was her dream to leave her own mark on the food and restaurant industry.
Being a US Foods Scholar will help Destinee accomplish her goal of owning a food business. She hopes to open a food truck that offers dishes for kids and adults alike and wants to build her own bakery franchise. Destinee also looks forward to using her future success to educate and inspire aspiring culinary leaders.
Fun Facts about Destinee
Favorite dish: “Most people take this as a surprise, but I have yet to discover a favorite dish. I rarely make the same dish twice because I like to broaden my palette and challenge myself to produce new things.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “My most memorable moments will always be turning out dishes. I love to see how everyone’s hard work and preparation comes together to create a beautiful outcome.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “It means that people will hear my background story and appreciate the passion and love I have for the culinary industry. This program also gives me the opportunity to continue developing the skills I need to become a world-class baker.”
Liliana Flores is a first-year baking and pastry and foodservice management student at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colorado.
Liliana has been cooking and baking for 10 years. Her interest was inspired by her father, who shares her love of being in the kitchen and taught her the link between creating good food and making people happy. She was also inspired by her mother, who is just as creative in the kitchen and taught her how to make her favorite dishes. Liliana knew early on that this was her passion and that it was something that she wanted to turn into a career.
As a US Foods Scholar, Liliana will continue to learn more about the food and restaurant industry and explore new and different foods. After graduation, she hopes to achieve her dreams of traveling the world, helping create comfortable and inclusive restaurant environments and opening her very own cake shop. Liliana is also committed to identifying and offering food options that cater to people with food allergies and dietary restrictions.
Fun Facts about Liliana
Favorite dish: “My favorite dish to prepare is spaghetti.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “One of the most memorable moments in the kitchen was when I was making a birthday cake for a party, and my chocolate cake was stuck to the pan. I was ready to give up, but I didn’t. Instead, I took a deep breath and went back to working. I made another cake and turned the cracked cake into cake pops. Both were a hit! I always think back to this moment because it gives me confidence that I should never give up.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “It means having a great opportunity to new doors and new culinary connections.”
Raleigh, North Carolina
Lillie Hood is a baking and pastry arts student at Wake Technical Community College in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Lillie’s love for all things food has been years in the making. She started baking when she was a child, and as she got older, she became more interested in learning about the different aspects and techniques of baking. Lillie describes herself as organized and artistic and felt that those traits, combined with her skills and passion for baking, were a natural fit for a career as a pastry chef. With the encouragement of her family and friends, she decided to pursue an education in the culinary arts.
Being a US Foods Scholar will help Lillie accomplish her goal of becoming a pastry chef and opening her own bakery in her hometown, McGee's Crossroads, North Carolina. She looks forward to creating spectacular dishes and finding ways to use her baking to give back to the food industry and her local community.
Fun Facts about Lillie
Favorite dish: “I love baking cakes. My dad has alpha-gal and cannot eat dairy products, so I like to mess around with different ingredients and figure out what works and tastes good, so he can enjoy my creations.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “My most memorable moment was when a fellow peer put too much powdered sugar in their mixer to make buttercream icing. When they turned it on, it went everywhere. It reminded me that no matter what age or skill level you are, no one is perfect, and we can all learn from little mistakes.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “Being a US Foods Scholar means that my dedication is not going unnoticed. It gives me a boost to not give up on my dreams, and it’s something I can be proud of during challenging times.”
Molly Leibbrandt is a culinary arts and food service management student at Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colorado.
Molly first developed a fascination with cooking when she took a health and nutrition class during her sophomore year in high school. She also loved watching cooking shows and admired the creativity of the chefs who worked under pressure. After taking a ProStart class during her senior year, Molly started to envision herself as a future chef and decided to pursue culinary arts as a career.
As a US Foods Scholar, Molly will take what she is learning and apply it to her current job at the Four Seasons Hotel in Denver. She hopes to continue working her way up in restaurants, eventually advancing to an executive chef position. Her ultimate dream is to own a restaurant that serves locally sourced dishes. In addition to her culinary career, Molly looks forward to working with other chefs and leaders to help solve the food waste issue in the restaurant industry.
Fun Facts about Molly
Favorite dish: “My family really likes my egg rolls, and I love making food that they enjoy. There are a lot of cuts involved to make them just right, and they can take a lot of time, but the finished product is always delicious!”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “I decided to make cannoli from scratch for an anatomy and physiology class my senior year. It was for a project where we had to demonstrate a blood clotting disorder. It took me three hours to make them, but my classmate and I received extra credit because of our creativity. Others in the class also asked me to make more!”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “Being a US Foods Scholar means that all my hard work has paid off. I feel more confident that I can accomplish what I put my efforts toward. I am very proud to have received this award, and I am very grateful to US Foods for selecting me.”
Stevani Flahaut is a first-year culinary science student at Austin Community College in Austin, Texas.
Stevani has been cooking since she was 10 years old. Growing up, her mother was a single parent and prepared simple meals and boxed dinners for Stevani and her brother. Stevani started to experiment with how she could create new and different dishes and took on the role of making dinner every night. Since then, her passion for cooking has only grown. Between working, cooking for family and friends and meal prepping, Stevani spends her days in the kitchen and loves every minute of it.
Being a US Foods Scholar will allow Stevani to work with chefs who share her passion for the culinary arts. She wants to develop her own character and cooking style and become a chef who puts pride and soul into her dishes. Eventually, she wants to run her own food operation that reflects her cooking philosophy.
Fun Facts about Stevani
Favorite Dish: “If I had to choose just one dish, it would be a Thai cuisine called TigerCry – a seared beef and scallion salad with celery leaves, Thai basil, peppers, onions and lots of spice. The fresh salad is tossed with a chili soy sauce dressing and will knock your socks off.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “When I was 21 years old, I was hired as a sous chef for Latitude 28°02' in Rockport, Texas, a renowned restaurant owned by executive chef Craig Day. The year I was hired he also celebrated his 14th year of operations. When I was 22, I lead our three-person kitchen staff in breaking his record of 184 heads serviced. That night, we serviced 214 people. No food was sent back. It was a milestone for Craig and an achievement I will hold dear to me forever.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “It means I was given a chance to pursue a career in what I love to do the most without the financial burdens of loans. It means I can take a deep breath and enjoy going to school, working part time and having time for extracurricular activities. It is an honor to have been chosen as a US Foods Scholar. I cannot wait to see the proud faces of my family and friends, as I will be the first person in my family to receive a college degree.”
2018 US Foods Scholars
Bran’de Gilbert is a first-year baking & pastry student at Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts in Chicago. She started cooking at the age of three, when her father taught her how to pick and clean greens. After a few more years of shadowing her parents in the kitchen, she eventually became responsible for cooking the majority of her family’s meals.
Bran’de realized that she wanted to turn her love for cooking into a career during her sophomore year in high school, following a five-week culinary exploratory program at Simeon Career Academy. She began taking advantage of all the resources available at her school, including working closely with the culinary teacher, and going on a trip to Canada with a group of other students interested in culinary arts.
Being a US Foods Scholars is helping Bran’de achieve her dream of becoming a pastry chef. Her goal is to own multiple bakeries and/or pastry trucks–and inspire other young students like herself to pursue a career in the culinary industry.
Fun Facts about Bran’de
Favorite dish: “Brownies. I love to make different types of candy-flavored brownies.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “Last year, when I made homemade pasta from scratch for the very first time.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “Working hard, maintaining good grades, never giving up when things get tough and always communicating.”
Diana Diaz is a freshman at Arizona State University majoring in nutrition.
Diana’s passion for the culinary arts started early, when she would cook with her Nana, and was solidified after taking a culinary class her junior year of high school.
Being a US Foods Scholar is helping Diana pursue her passion of becoming a nutritionist and making a difference in society. She wants to take the negative connotations out of “diet” by teaching others who may have dietary restrictions how to eat in a way that betters their lives, while still enjoying creative, delicious and satisfying dishes.
Fun Facts about Diana
Most memorable kitchen moment: “My most memorable moment in the kitchen was my C-CAP final competition, because of the adrenaline that I felt. You’re on a time limit and trying to make a really delicious dish that’s not only good but presentable too!”
Hobbies: “In my spare time, I play softball and soccer, and I am in leagues for both sports. I also like hiking with my partner and our nephew and niece.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “Like many other students I know, I understand what it's like to not be able to pay for college. The fact that I was given the opportunity to be a US Foods Scholar means everything because I know it will help me find success in my career, and it insipires me to give back to those who will need help in the future.”
Elliott Moore is a freshman majoring in culinary arts at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, Illinois.
Elliott has been cooking for over seven years. His interest in the culinary arts was sparked by his father, who he grew up watching in the kitchen. When Elliott
had the opportunity to take culinary classes in high school, this only solidified his passion. His father is an avid supporter of his career goals and continues to encourage Elliott to follow his dreams.
As a US Foods Scholar, Elliott hopes to earn his degree in the culinary arts and eventually pursue his dream of being a professional chef on a cruise ship.
Fun Facts about Elliott
Favorite dish: “Fried chicken strips!”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “My most memorable moment in the kitchen is when my teacher threw my plate of food away and told me to start over because he knew I could do better.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “Being a US Foods Scholar means a lot because it opens up new doors for me and allows me to pursue my dream of becoming a chef.”
Gabrielle Siegfried is a first-year baking & pastry and hospitality management student at Kendall College’s School of Culinary Arts in Chicago.
Gabrielle’s passion for the culinary arts stems from her love of bringing people together. She learned the impact of making connections through food by watching cooking shows and baking with her grandmother. Gabrielle began cooking regularly when she was in middle school and became the resident baker for her art club. Not only were her creations an instant hit with the other members, but they inspired Gabrielle to pursue a career as a pastry chef.
Being a US Foods Scholar helps Gabrielle work towards her dream of attaining her degree in the culinary arts and hospitality management, and to continue using baking to connect with people of all backgrounds. After she graduates, she hopes to pursue a career working for a food company that offers a wide array of career opportunities and encourages other students to achieve their dreams.
Fun Facts about Gabrielle
Favorite dish: “Any kind of cookie or cake!”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “Making my parents a four-course meal for my dad’s birthday all by myself.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “The door of opportunity is now open in ways I never could have imagined, and all of my hard work is paying off.”
Jackson Gilmore is a first-year human resources management student at Oregon State University and has been cooking for four years.
Jackson was inspired by his culinary teacher, Patti Pastor, to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
Being a US Foods Scholar is helping Jackson pursue his dream of owning and operating a fly fishing lodge that serves outstanding food. He also wants to be a role model for sustainability not only in the kitchen, but in how society views sourcing fish.
Fun Facts about Jackson
Favorite dish: “Baked Alaska.”
Most memorable kitchen moment: “My most memorable moment was when I was a chef at a fly fishing camp in the Alaskan bush. Each week, the float plane landed and I had to think on my feet and adapt my weekly menu from what I ordered, to what I actually received.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “Being a US Foods Scholar means everything. Without the support of US Foods, I could not go to Oregon State.”
Joseph Garza was born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, and is a first-year student at the Culinary Institute of America in New York.
Joseph’s passion for cooking was inspired by his grandmother. Starting when he was nine years old, he would regularly watch and cook alongside her in the kitchen, starting off with simple tasks and working his way up to larger meals.
Being a US Foods Scholar is helping Joseph pursue an education at one of the top culinary schools in the United States and live his personal mantra of not “working”, but instead making a living by doing what he loves.
Fun Facts about Joseph
Most memorable kitchen moment: “It’s probably one of my first cooking experiences with my grandma. A more recent one would be me and my close friend making pizza in my kitchen. Just watching him try something I enjoy doing was fun, and his reactions on the tasty end-result were even better.”
What it means to be a US Foods Scholar: “It’s another stepping stone and partnership in my life to make my dream and goals so much more real. It’s a great opportunity.”
Hobbies: “In addition to cooking, I also enjoy reading and writing.”