The Next Generation of Columbus Chefs are in Training at CSCC
The baking lab in the basement of Eibling Hall on Columbus State’s campus is a flurry of activity at this point in the semester. Chefs-in-training have progressed from basic “quick bread” recipes into the world of artisan creations. Ciabatta, fougasse with Niçoise olives, apple brioche pizza, ham and swiss loaves, and roasted potato garlic and herb bread are all on today’s menu and students are bent over their recipe books as they try to ensure that their creations turn out just right.
The next room over is a similar scene. There, students are learning the art of Garde Manger — cold dishes such as hors d’œuvres, salads, appetizers and pâtés that can be prepared and preserved ahead of time. Taste, food safety and presentation are all grading criteria and, just as in the baking lab, attention to detail is key.
The Culinary Apprenticeship program at Columbus State was recently marked among the Top 20 Culinary Programs nationwide by FSR, a magazine for Full-Service Restaurants. It is easy to see how the program earned this distinction given the hands-on opportunities it offers to students.
Columbus State’s culinary program is driven by practical experience — aided by theory but never trumped by it.
“It’s much more hands on than many other programs,” explains chef James Taylor who was in charge of the program for many years before becoming Department chair. “It’s more of a traditional approach, a lot of the learning being done on the job.”
Students enrolled in the Culinary Apprenticeship program spend just one day a week in the classroom. The rest of their time is spent on site at their respective apprentice posts.
“Students have to get a job once they enter the program,” explains Taylor. “We have many ways to help them with that but ultimately the responsibility is up to them.”
Since its inception in 1978, the Culinary Apprenticeship program has been able to build many positive relationships with area businesses that offer students positions.
“We’re in the country clubs, area restaurants, hotels, upscale retirement homes,” says Taylor. “There are many options and it really gives students the opportunity to find a position that’s right for them.”
When they graduate from the program, students will have completed over 4,000 hours of on the job training and the they will have earned both their associate of applied science degrees and certifications as licensed Sous Chefs.
The Baking and Pastry Arts Track, a separate program from the Culinary Apprenticeship, is still relatively new. Chef Karen Krimmer was brought in eight years ago to develop the track. For the first few years only a baking certificate was offered but the program is now in its 5th year offering a full Baking and Pastry Arts degree. Many students cross over between the two programs.
Deja Johnson is one such student. Johnson graduated from the Culinary Apprenticeship program with his Certified Sous Chef license and is now a student in Krimmer’s baking class.
“I’m really just trying to get my hands into a bit of everything,” explains Johnson, appropriately kneading fougasse dough as he does so. “I want to learn as much as possible so that I can own my own restaurant.”
Johnson hopes to focus on what he calls “influential cuisine” which involves dishes that have been created based on influence from other cultures and culinary fusion.
Influential cuisine also seems a good way to describe the atmosphere of the culinary program at CSCC. The students all come from an array of different backgrounds and experiences. Tina Krick came to the program because her college-aged daughter was attending Columbus State and encouraged her to look into it. Now she is completing her Baking and Pastry Arts degree while also taking the Garde Manger course and she hopes to become a pastry chef. Alla Karakay started working at Belle’s Bakery and then sought out the culinary program from there. Whatever their motivations, all students bring something to the table.
“We learn a lot from each other,” says Johnson. “We teach each other new techniques and everybody brings something different.”
The Columbus State Culinary Program is one where students learn with every sensory organ fully engaged and where practical experience is unparalleled.
For more information on the program, visit www.cscc.edu/academics/.