*photo by Stacy Lynne Photography
Walk into the kitchen at First Coast Technical College School of Culinary Arts on any given morning and the students are busy doing morning prep work. The scent of onions, datil peppers and garlic fill the air as they baste, cut, chop and boil depending on the menu for that day. Once the prep is complete the food is ready to serve to guests at Walter’s Reef, the school’s on-campus restaurant, which by the way, is open to the public.
Creating meals for diners at Walter’s Reef gives students the chance to really become chefs with hands on learning under the direction of experienced senior chefs who are their teachers. This is one component of the dynamic program run by Program Supervisor, Chef Scott Bennett.
Students not only prepare the food, they also serve it. Hospitality Instructor Denise Jones says this teaches students about the importance of communication between the front of the house where the guests eat and back of the house where the meals are made.
The students recently won second place in a statewide competition in Orlando, reflecting the high quality of the program and its instructors.
Students in the program are from many different backgrounds. Adonica Steiger was working in an office position, and decided to enroll in the program after attending an open house. “My initial goal was to open a food truck but I have changed my mind. I am still looking for my niche in the kitchen; my goal is to discover what I am really good at and can enjoy improving upon every day. I graduate in January 2015 and hope that I will have a better idea for what area in the culinary field I would like to pursue. I have an interest in fine dining so I am eager to learn more on plate presentation prior to graduation.” Adonica appreciates the way the senior chefs encourage creativity in their students.
Another student, William Eric Hutcherson was a licensed crane operator for fifteen years until a back injury forced him to change careers. Since he always loved cooking he decided to attend an FCTC culinary open house. He says, “FCTC has a very informative program and easy enrollment. I really enjoy the one on one with the chef’s and the fact that we actually are involved in production made my decision to enroll a easy one. I plan on pursuing my dreams of becoming a chef by seeking employment in the Assisted Living field and enrolling in the apprentice program offered at FCTC”.
A few students have actually enrolled after entering retirement because they love cooking and wanted to learn more now that they had the time and freedom. One such student is Chef Bob Henle, who attended FCTC in 2001, after a long career with the Air Force. Henle is now the Head Chef at one of the area’s best restaurants, The Reef in Vilano Beach.
FCTC prides itself on training chefs for the many wonderful local restaurants of St. Augustine and the First Coast.
WALTER’s REEF is open Tuesday thru Friday from 11am to 1 pm. For only $10 you receive a drink, soup, salad bar, appetizers, main course and dessert. Daily menus http://fctc.edu/cafe/
THANKSGIVING DAY LUNCHEON: FCTC’s School of Culinary Arts will host our Annual Thanksgiving Luncheon Thursday, November 20th. Seatings are available at 11 am or 12 pm. Cost is $13.00. Reservations are required. Our luncheons sell out fast; secure your spot asap! Call 904-547-3455 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservation deadline is Monday, Nov. 17th.
HOLIDAY PIE SALE: FCTC’s School of Culinary Arts is now accepting pre-orders for pumpkin and/or pecan pies. Pumpkin pies are $6.00; pecan pies are $9.00. Pies can be picked up at Walter’s Reef Café from 9 am – 2 pm on Monday, November 24th or Tuesday, November 25th. To place your order, call 904-547-3461 or email email@example.com. Order deadline is Monday, November 17th. See more at: http://fctc.edu/cafe/
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