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ACTC culinary program moves to Technology Drive

Ashland, Ky. — They may not think about becoming the next Food Network Stars, but students in the Culinary Arts Program at Ashland Community and Technical College plan to become ‘stars’ in restaurant kitchens or their own businesses.

“I really enjoy being in the culinary field,” said T. J. Blevins, a current student and head cook at St. Claire Regional Medical Center in Morehead. He has finished his culinary classes and is taking general education classes online to complete his associate degree.

“My immediate goal is to get the associate’s degree so I can be a chef,” Blevins said. “Becoming a master chef is next on my list of goals, and then over the long term perhaps becoming a personal chef or owning a catering business.”

Student Sarah Miller, a Grayson resident, did research on careers and colleges and selected ACTC because she wanted to stay close to the area. “I started out wanting to be a caterer, but after seeing “Ace of Cakes” on television, I decided to become a baker.”

The Culinary Arts program is one of the programs that has moved this summer from the Roberts Drive Campus to the new multimillion dollar addition at Technology Drive.

Students will prepare meals in a restaurant-quality kitchen and serve students in the Rocky Adkins Pavilion, the cafeteria named in honor of Rep. Rock Adkins for his support of the college.

The Culinary Program facility also has six test kitchens that can provide space for classes and catered events.

The lunch menu varies in order to provide students with experience in preparing as many different food items as possible, including international specialties and holiday favorites. Students also learn teamwork and leadership skills through the process of planning, preparing and serving meals, with each student taking a turn as manager.

Menu planning, the cooking of multiple dishes, cafeteria line service and kitchen clean up are ‘managed’ by a student, with supervision by the instructors.

The hands-on experience in serving customers as well as cooking and baking prepares students for a variety of careers in the restaurant, hotel and institutional food service industry.

“Some of our graduates are chefs, bakers and caterers, while others manage restaurants or food services for education and health care institutions,” said Bradley.

Mike Clevenger, for instance, is Food Service Director for Sports Arena in Orlando, Florida. “I wouldn’t be where I’m at today if it wasn’t for the Culinary Arts Program,” said the 2003 graduate. “The instructors helped me so much.”

After their first semester sanitation course, students take the National Restaurant Association’s ServSafe exam. The exam focuses on food safety principles and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point concepts. An exam score of 75% or higher is needed for certification, and since the program began, every Culinary Arts student has been certified.

“Safety and sanitation are emphasized from the beginning, because students will be serving people even before they graduate,” said Associate Professor Barbara Dunn.

In addition to safe food handling, students learn to prepare basic and specialized foods, basic dining room service, catering and special functions, planning, purchasing, inventory and cost control, and customer service.

The combination of cooking, management and people skills are designed to help culinary arts students succeed as a professional chef, small business owner or restaurant/food service manager.

Students with a variety of ages, backgrounds and goals are drawn to the program.

Austin Behrens from Covington WV had been interested in culinary arts since elementary school and “I’d like to be a chef in my own restaurant,” he said. He learned about the program at ACTC from his parents.

Lisa Young from Grayson wants to own and operate her own bakery. She enrolled in the program after her fiancée told her to look into it. “I wanted to learn the ins and outs of food service and baking before starting my own business. We have excellent teachers, and the program has taught me a lot already.”

T. J. Blevins was a plumber for 11 years in the family business. “When the business shut down, I could either continue to work or try to do something that I loved,” he said. “Food was always something more to me that just a meal so I took the chance to go back to school.”

“ACTC offered financial aid support other schools didn’t have, and the support of my teachers has been unlike any other educational experience I’ve ever had,” Blevins added.

Nationwide, the employment of chefs, cooks, and food preparation workers is expected to increase by 11 percent over the 2006-16 decade, according to the U. S. Department of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook.

The addition of about 351,000 new jobs nationwide is spurred by increases in population and the demand for food prepared by others. These jobs will include chefs for fine-dining establishments and management trainees for national or regional restaurant chains.

Wages in the Huntington-Ashland metro area range from $19,000 for restaurant cooks to $27,000 for supervisors and managers of food preparation and serving workers. Nationwide, the median for chefs and head cooks is $41,000, and full-time caterers can make that much or more.

Job opportunities in the area include fast food establishments, health care institutions and corrections facilities. Dietary jobs in hospitals, nursing homes and schools are options for associate degree graduates who pass the Dietary Managers Associations national exam.

For information on enrolling in the Culinary Arts Program, contact Peggy Bradley, 606-326-2466, or Barbara Dunn, 606-326-2468.

Programs at Technology Drive

In addition to Culinary Arts, other programs moving to the Technology Drive Campus this summer are Business Administration, Information Technology and Office Systems Technology from College Drive and Applied Process Technologies, Air Conditioning (HVAC), Computer Aided Drafting and Design, and Construction Carpentry from Roberts Drive.

Already located at Technology Drive are Electrical, Industrial Maintenance, Machine Tool and Welding technology. The Campus also offers classes for Associate in Arts and Associate in Science Degrees.