From Silver Fork to the Great American Baking Show

Destané Harris tells her story on connection, profession and passion.


We want to take time these last few days of the year to outline some of the programs that are made possible from monetary donations of our community. A beautiful example is the Silver Fork program. Silver Fork is a 9-week culinary arts and job readiness program hosted by Center on Halsted. Students experience intensive culinary training coupled with Front of the House training, personal and professional development, job readiness and career counseling.

Below is a story from a Silver Fork graduate, Destané Harris, who has excelled beyond measure in her culinary career. We are grateful to Destané for sharing her story, and grateful to you for making it possible.

A letter from Destané:

About 6 years ago, I came to Center on Halsted for a space to go where I felt welcome as part of Chicago’s LGBTQ community. One day, I randomly ran across a Silver Fork flyer and inquired for more information. At this point, I’d already started culinary school, but it became too expensive and a program like Silver Fork was right up my alley. It was perfect timing for me to stumble across the flyer at this time. I became part of Cohort 6 of the Silver Fork program at Center on Halsted and through this, I got acquainted with many of Center on Halsted employees as well as my fellow students and started building a great network.

Silver Fork staff at Center on Halsted helped and guided me through my time and I am proud to say I successfully graduated. Since completing the program, I have come back for several years to volunteer my time in multiple ways including instructing pastry classes and speaking about my experience. I’ve found this donation of my time to be very rewarding. Students want to hear more about my story and I connect with them through the experience of the program.

I’m very grateful for my experience with Silver Fork. It has opened doors which have propelled me even further in my culinary career including the chance to participate in the Great American Baking Show on ABC Network. I met Paul Hollywood and Sherry Yard, flew out to London, and learned so much through this opportunity. Although my personal work and dedication got me on the Great American Baking Show, I have Silver Fork at Center on Halsted to thank for fostering the confidence to speak to people and engage publicly. When I was in culinary school, I was always the person who wanted to stay behind the scenes and in the kitchen. I was never comfortable engaging in that way, but the Silver Fork program helped me feel open and confident when speaking freely to people about myself and my craft.

For that, I am very grateful.

Not only is Silver Fork a free program, students receive a $200 stipend upon completion of the first 30 days of eligible work. Center on Halsted is only able to make programs such as Silver Fork available with the monetary support of our community members like you.

As we close out the year, we look back on all we have achieved with the love, dedication and commitment of our community members like you. We are excited for the future of Silver Fork and its graduates such as Destané, and we hope to continue supporting them for years to come. By contributing financially to Center on Halsted, you are becoming a part of someone else’s story. Please continue to support Center on Halsted to make programs like Silver Fork possible. We are beyond grateful for all that you do!

Center on Halsted is the Midwest’s largest community center dedicated to advancing the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) Movement.

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