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Shawnette Maxwell, left, and Zariyah Derrick, right, are students in the Culinary Arts Specialist program at New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI). Both have their own businesses selling food and plan to concentrate on growing those businesses after graduation.

New Community Career & Technical Institute Culinary Arts Students to Focus on Businesses After Graduation

Shawnette Maxwell and Zariyah Derrick both have a passion for cooking that they are hoping to turn into full-time careers. Both have started businesses where they sell their food and both decided to enroll in the Culinary Arts Specialist program at New Community Career & Technical Institute (NCCTI) to enhance their skills and earn a certification to prove their culinary knowledge to future clients.

Both women are serious about their culinary careers. They quit their jobs to attend NCCTI and pursue their passion. They both got their start cooking early in life, learning the basics of cooking as children. They found joy in it and knew they wanted to take their skills to the next level.

Derrick’s sister and cousin both attended NCCTI and had positive experiences. Her sister earned her high school diploma through the High School Equivalency/GED program and then received a health care certification. Her cousin also completed a health care program. They both encouraged her to earn a culinary certification at the school.

Maxwell first learned about NCCTI in the Clarion newsletter and decided to inquire about the school after seeing its sign along South Orange Avenue.

Both are happy with their decision to enroll in the program.

“I’ve learned a lot,” Maxwell said, explaining how Instructor Samuel Gaddy helped her master gravy making and taught her the importance of having a variety of cutting boards for specific purposes.

Derrick said the program taught her how to correctly use all the cooking equipment and the importance of details.

“I knew how to do big things. But the small things I didn’t know. Like carving the fat off of a big roast,” she said. “I never took the skin and properly shaved it off.”

The women have excelled in the program.

“Both Ms. Maxwell and Ms. Derrick are exceptionally skilled women in culinary cooking. Their talents shine brightly when they prepare to showcase their unique entrees for their classmates to taste,” Gaddy said. “More than often, compliments are thrown their way by Extended Care kitchen staff, fellow students and myself.”

Instead of just searching for employment after graduation, Maxwell and Derrick plan to ramp up their businesses. Maxwell operates Sweety Catering Services. She specializes in Caribbean cuisine but will prepare any type of food that is requested. She caters a variety of events, including birthday parties, weddings and cookouts. She currently operates an Instagram business page and plans to create a website soon. She’s also working toward getting a food truck and possibly a storefront down the line.

Derrick sells soul food by the plate through her Instagram page mss.parkerrs_kitchen. She doesn’t want to limit herself to that type of cuisine, however. She hopes to attend a culinary school in Europe to broaden her horizons and gain even more experience.

Maxwell and Derrick’s drive to succeed shines through to staff members. NCCTI Director Dr. Sylvia McCray is happy that the school has been able to put both women on the path to success.

“As a friend of mine, Jon Jernigan, Chef of Cathedral Kitchen, stated, ‘We look for people who have a passion for cooking and are wanting to change their situation.’ That is exactly what we found with these two ladies,” McCray said. “They are determined to change their outcomes through hard work and determination, and NCCTI is here to help them do that. I am excited to see what they will do next.”

NCCTI Financial Coach Akeen Downes said Maxwell and Derrick are promising students.

“They exceed expectations in the quality of their work as Culinary Arts students and businesswomen by ensuring they are present, engaged and take initiative to complete the task at hand,” Downes said. “I am confident that both ladies will continue to thrive in their career path as they warm the hearts of many with their wonderful cuisines.”

NCCTI Career Services Coordinator Chanda Webb said she admires their enthusiasm for cooking and their entrepreneurial spirit, as well as their positive attitudes. 

“When these two stop by the office, they bring smiles and laughter with them,” Webb said. “I really wish them the best in their future endeavors.”

While Maxwell and Derrick are excited to complete the culinary program in April, they will miss coming to school each day, particularly because of the bonds they have formed with classmates and staff members.

“I got extended family,” Derrick said. “These are women I know I could call even if I’m not in the program. Anybody in the office could help me with anything and I could talk to them. I’m going to miss them when we leave.”

NCCTI is an accredited post-secondary career and technical institution that is currently enrolling for the following programs: Automotive Technician, Building Trades Specialist, Medical Assistant Clinical, Patient Care Technician and Culinary Arts Specialist. NCCTI also operates a comprehensive Financial Opportunity Center and Bridges to Career Opportunities Program sponsored by the local and national Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) offices. For more information, call 973-824-6484, log onto or visit 274 South Orange Ave., Newark.

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