While the main goal in college is to take classes for practical knowledge that will help students obtain their degrees, there is more to the college experience. The Cosumnes River College culinary arts department embraced this as their students prepared lunch for the Future Farmers of America central regional meeting on Feb. 28.
These catering events are student-run and geared towards giving students a chance to gain real-time experience and skills that they can use in future careers. Professor of culinary arts management Cynthia Torres said the department’s goal is to increase the students’ employability.
“When you start in the industry you typically take the stairs. I like mine to get in the elevator,” Torres said. “My job is to get them employable [and] ready for a career so they can promote quickly.”
With 450 people in attendance, the culinary students had to prepare 125 pounds of chicken, 50 pounds of rice, and 25 pounds of black beans, Torres said.
Torres said she was there only as a mentor and guide as the students prepared an enormous lunch consisting of chilaquiles, chicken and rice, fresh pico de gallo with homemade chips and 900 Mexican wedding cookies for dessert.
Everything is made from scratch and prepped the day before.
“They do everything. I do the shopping and I write the menu but all the food is made by the students,” Torres said.
Agricultural Business Professor and FFA Meeting Coordinator Howard Lewis has worked with the culinary department before. Lewis is also the department chair of the agricultural business and culinary arts management departments.
“It’s one of the best things going on in our division,” Lewis said.
The kitchens themselves were in constant motion, though the students seemed calm and focused.
“Ever since I was little, I’ve just always been in the kitchen,” said 24-year-old culinary arts major, Valentino Villa. “I find it therapeutic to myself.”
Robert Young, a 23-year-old culinary arts major, said that these events make him want to work for a large catering company one day.
The students get experience from a variety of recipes and techniques because Torres said she doesn’t like “to do the the same thing ever again.”
Torres said she also encourages students to cook at home and posts recipes they can use on her community Facebook page, Dr. Cynthia Torres aka Dr. Chef.
“I love coming here every day,” said 26-year-old Sophelia Gray, a culinary arts major. “This whole department is very great. I love working with everyone, they’re nice, they welcome you.”