Culinary Arts Academy leads to employment

An hour before eight culinary arts academy students finished preparing a gourmet meal for restaurant owners and other employers, nervous excitement filled the room.  In a way, it was graduation day.  Actually, it was August 11 and these aspiring Top Chefs were completing the final day of an academy designed to train students to become job-ready.  The task for the day was to host a “mastery demonstration” and by all accounts, the students put together a great event.

Working with Foodshare Employment and Training (FSET), the Workforce Investment Act (WIOA) and Wisconsin Works (W-2), culinary arts instructors from Blackhawk Technical College led the eight week academy, developing a curriculum that included food service sanitation, meal preparation, cooking techniques, nutrition, equipment usage and kitchen terminology. 

By the end of the program graduates gained employable skills and earned Servsafe Certificates, a food and beverage safety training certificate administered by the National Restaurant Association.

Twelve students were initially signed up for the academy, thanks to funding provided by the Southwest Wisconsin Workforce Development Board (SWWDB).  Eight completed the program.

Edmund Halabi, owner of the Italian House in Janesville and an event attendee was definitely impressed.  “Janesville couldn’t be any luckier than to have something like this,” he said. “It is a wonderful ‘filter’ for me. It allows me to talk to qualified candidates, so I don’t have to waste time with unqualified job seekers.”

In addition to employers, the students were also thrilled with the program’s outcomes.

La’Tasha Benton of Janesville (WIOA), was hired by BTC by the end of the program to assist with the full-time associate degree Culinary Arts students. 

Aldonia D. Haynes of Janesville (WIOA), pre-interviewed with four of the restaurateurs present at the meal.

Atina Addleman of Footville (Dislocated Worker), spoke with five restaurateurs about part-time employment.  Addleman is still working on her GED at BTC but believes culinary arts is her future.  “I really liked it."

For LaShandra Woods of Beloit (WIOA and W-2) the opportunity helped certify her already extensive food prep background. Woods has worked at White Castle, Wendy’s, and Burger King.  She said now that has earned her ServSafe Certificate, she has lined up several interviews with more formal dining restaurants.

Robert C. Kincy of Janesville (WIOA and FSET), whose background was more in manual labor as a line worker, product handler and lawn care and carpentry worker, has chosen to continue on in the Culinary Arts program at BTC. “If the classes are as enjoyable as this program was, I’m going to love school,” he beamed.

In addition to teaching hands-on skills, the program taught soft skills such as punctuality, work ethics, cooperation, and team building. 

According to BTC’s Business and Community Development, the department hopes to develop more academies with the SWWDB to create more opportunities for Rock and Green County residents.