(WACO, Texas) – Texas State Technical College Culinary Arts students are ready to make their dreams come true when they graduate this spring.
“I feel as if this program has prepared me for more than I ever imagined,” said Mikhaila Hoffman of College Station. “The long-term goal is to eventually own my own bakery. That probably won’t happen for a while, but that’s been my dream for a long time. I feel more prepared than I thought I would.”
Equipping students with the skills they need to find employment in the food industry is the crux of the Culinary Arts program’s curriculum. Students learn food sanitation and safety practices, proper handling of kitchen equipment, menu planning, catering and nutrition.
The Culinary Club’s vice president, Dequan Carter, of Waco, praised instructors’ knowledge and encouragement of their students.
“TSTC is a great program, the chefs are always there to help, and the skills they teach you will be needed in any well-established restaurant,” Carter said. “They teach you great knife skills that will help you in the long run. Skills that I didn’t have are now refined with the help of the chefs.”
Students can work toward an Associate of Applied Science degree in Culinary Arts or certificates of completion such as Culinarian, Culinary Assistant and Culinary Specialist. Each program requires sanitation and safety courses, but specialty classes like International Cuisine and Advanced Pastry Shop offer students the chance to discover what they are passionate about.
“My favorite class would have to be International Cuisine because we make foods from around the world,” said Emmanuel Walker of Waco. “It gives you a sense of what other cultures and regions have to offer.”
Vickie Bradford, of Corsicana, makes the hourlong commute several times a week to attend classes at the Greta W. Watson Culinary Arts Center at the Waco campus. She voiced her appreciation for the program’s specialty baking classes and the experience she has gained at TSTC.
“Baking is my passion. I love making pound cake, pineapple upside-down cake and lemon cake,” Bradford said. “I have a couple of favorite classes that I’m going to miss, but the top of my list would be Chef Brown’s baking class — it was very challenging and fun. I enjoyed her class because at first I thought it would be a piece of cake. Wrong!”
Students develop skills they need to own and operate their own establishments, such as hospitality supervision and management. They learn proper plate presentation, sauce creation, and butchering and cooking of meat, poultry, seafood and game.
Walker is an aspiring restaurant owner and SkillsUSA competitor. Students like him gain confidence in their abilities and ambitions during their time at TSTC.
“My experience here has been one of the best adventures in my life. The skills that I have learned are all of the things that I would need to be successful,” Walker said. “I see myself possibly starting my own restaurant. It may take some time, but with the right motivation and consistency, I’d be able to do more than own a restaurant and start a small franchise.”
According to the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics and onetonline.org, Texas currently employs the second-most restaurant cooks in the nation. The market is booming for Culinary Arts students like these, who are just starting their careers and ready to claim their dreams, one step at a time.
“I’ve always loved cooking from a young age, and I want to be a head chef sometime in the future. My parents moved to the U.S. for me so I could have better opportunities,” Carter said. “I’m going to keep pushing for my goals to be the best that I can be, no matter what comes my way.”
Registration continues for the summer and fall semesters at TSTC. For more information, go to tstc.edu.