The new Culinary Arts program recently opened its classroom doors and welcomed its first batch of students at the Lubbock Center campus.
The Culinary Arts program offers two types of certificates, the associate certificate and the certificate program.
“The certificate program helps people who want to get in and move forward,” says Chef Patrick Ramsey, Culinary Arts executive chef and program specialist at SPC. “Once you graduate, you will get five certificates, you’ll get the basic certificate, advanced certificate, baking and cooking certificate, bar manager certificate, and a purchasing certificate. So, whether you pick the certificate program or the associate program, when you walk out of here you have a lot of knowledge and credentials.”
The Culinary Arts program at the Lubbock Center campus has four labs which mirror each other, each one having their own cooking lines, and two specialty labs, baking, and meat cutting.
“We built this culinary lab to help people pursue their culinary dreams, or even for the people who are just wanting to try it,” Chef Ramsey said. “They get a lot of hands-on time, more table time, more cook time. Because as much as cooking has academics involved in it, cooking is a hands-on skill. You have to know what a proper steak feels like when it’s done. It’s very tactile.”
Since the program welcomed its first 54 students on Aug. 27, it has been “fast and furious,” according to Chef Natalie Osuna, Culinary Arts program developer.
“We hit the ground running,” said Chef Osuna, “both the students and the staff.”
A third instructor was added recently, as Austin McManus joined the program two days into the semester.
“That was a difficult week for an instructor to join,” said Chef Osuna. “But he did a fantastic job, and continues to do a fantastic job for us.”
“As far as the first two weeks in, I did anticipate for students to be excited and eager, and that’s really encouraging for us,” added Chef Osuna. “We are still working on students doing their Pearson software homework, but we are building on that and trying to give every student every resource possible for their success.”
Guadalupe Macias, a student at South Plains College who is in the new program, said, “The program is great, and I will get to do a lot of hands-on. Chef Osuna, Chef Ramsey, and Chef Austin are all very skilled and wonderful chefs that I think are going to make this a wonderful experience.”
“I believe the class will certainly help students get jobs,” he added, “because they offer internships, and if they do really good in their time there, you might be employed once you finish your career.”
Chef Ramsey explained that there are people on the program’s advisory committee who are wanting to hire their students right now. He also explained that, after the students graduate, if they want to work at Costco, they would get paid $16 to $17 an hour because of the number of certificates the students will have.
“People think that we just cook all the time and that it’s an easy class,” Macias said. “But let me tell you, it’s not. We go in depth about various things like the sanitation, hospitality, and management of the culinary industry.”
Chef Ramsey explained about the Culinary Arts program, “We are teaching academics, and there is a lot of knowledge that comes with being a qualified chef and an entry-level chef, such as knife safety skills, knife cuts, terminology, all the different things that go into it. Students don’t just come in and eat banana pudding all day long. We’re teaching the cooking language, we’re teaching an art form. We’re teaching a passion.”
That is what anyone who is passionate about cooking wants to hear. Macias said he is in the program because of his passion for cooking.
Chef Osuna said students in the program will also learn the discipline it takes to succeed in college, as well as in the industry.
“I think students coming in from secondary education, high school, coming in to post-secondary, it’s a whole new world for them,” explained Chef Osuna, “and I understand that, we understand that, and there’s a lot to learn versus high school. Coming into college-level courses and college level expectations from instructors, discipline is a big part of it.”
“The students coming out are going to have the culinary skills and the baking skills, along with purchasing and restaurant skills, that is going to set them apart in the real world in Lubbock and surrounding area,” she added.
There also are plans to offer culinary classes for community members in the future.
“We are planning on starting those up in the summer months for people in the community of Lubbock that are interested in brushing up on their culinary skills, baking skills, or just learning a specific herbs and sauces class,” Chef Osuna said. “I mean the sky’s the limit. We have the facilities to do anything under the culinary and baking umbrella, and so we anticipate that being a lot of fun for the community and also a lot of fun for us. So I’m looking forward to that.”