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Culinary Arts Program Cooking Up Visibility at TSTC

(HUTTO) – Texas State Technical College’s Culinary Arts program is gaining interest among students.

Chef Martin Ellenberger of Hutto joined the faculty at Texas State Technical College in Williamson County in late August. He is the primary instructor for that campus’ Culinary Arts program, which also has a high school dual enrollment teacher and an adjunct instructor.

Ellenberger, an Ohio native, initially joined the Culinary Arts faculty at TSTC in Waco in January 2015. He decided to change campuses to decrease his commute.

“It’s definitely different (at the Williamson County campus),” Ellenberger said. “There is a lot more stuff I need to stay on top of. I’m buying products and doing lesson plans. I’m able to create the recipes I want and have more responsibility with what I’m doing.”

The program had four students last fall, but has 12 students enrolled this year.

Brady Davis, 20, of Georgetown and a 2014 graduate of Eastview High School, has worked at the Walburg German Restaurant since high school. He said he finds kitchen life enjoyable and wants to learn everything he can in his classes. His goal is to own a food truck.

“I like the flexibility. The price was a huge factor, and I can keep a full-time job,” Davis said.

Brayan Flores, 18, of Taylor and a 2016 graduate of Taylor High School, took culinary classes through dual enrollment. The classes he is taking now at TSTC are an extension of what he has already learned. Flores also wants his own food truck or restaurant in a few years.

On a recent afternoon, Flores donned plastic gloves to melt a slab of butter on a pastry board to make dough.

“I like to look at different recipes and try them out,” Flores said. “I want to learn whatever will help me in the workforce.”

Some of the classes students will take this fall include Meat Preparation and Cooking, Food Service Operations and Systems, and Fundamentals of Baking.

“I like the way that we are structured,” Ellenberger said. “We take the students from having no culinary knowledge to being able to produce in a restaurant setting. I try to introduce as many items as possible that they would not be familiar with in the process.”

Culinary Arts’ two kitchens are on the third floor of the East Williamson County Higher Education Center in Hutto. The cooking kitchen can comfortably accommodate 24 students, and the baking kitchen can hold up to 20 students. Each kitchen has movable tables and stools, an array of skillets, pots, pans, ovens and cold-storage areas.

“I am excited and relieved at the opportunity to have someone who is as well-versed in our curriculum and as talented as Chef Martin is,” said Evan Morgan, Executive Director of the East Williamson County Higher Education Center. “In theory, this is his kitchen.”

When students leave the program with their Certificate 2 in Culinary Arts, Ellenberger wants them to be comfortable using knives, have an increased curiosity about food and have confidence in their skills.

Ellenberger’s goal, along with that of leaders at TSTC in Williamson County, is to see the program take advantage of the Austin area’s thriving culinary scene, where there is Thai, Chinese and Mexican cuisine, barbecue, Southern food and an assortment of food trucks.

The program will also enroll students in January for the Spring Semester. For more information, visit tstc.edu.

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Written by Daniel Perry on August 25, 2016
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TSTC in Marshall will be closed Wednesday, Jan. 17. TSTC in Waco, Williamson County and North Texas will reopen Wednesday. TSTC in Harlingen is closed Wednesday. Fort Bend County will open at 10 a.m. Wednesday.
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