Don’t be fooled by the TV shows. A chef’s life is not always a glamorous, star-filled existence.
Often the work is hard and the hours are long but if you love nothing more than making people happy with good food, this is the career for you.
A chef’s skill in the kitchen is honed with practice and repetition. And there is as much to learn about the chemistry of cooking as there is about creativity.
A chef is not just a cook either. It takes more than flair with food. A good chef knows how to calculate quantities and costs in order to protect profit margins, manage a staff and delight the diners.
“Cooking is hard work,” says Chef Wayne Gisslen, “so you must love it enough to make the work worthwhile to you. You have to take pride in doing your job well. You must enjoy working as part of a team and be able to work under pressure.” Gisslen trained at the Culinary Institute of America before cooking professionally in restaurants and corporate kitchens. He went on to write the textbooks “Professional Cooking” and “Professional Baking,” which are used in culinary classrooms across the country.
West Virginia Northern Community College’s Culinary Arts program, accredited by the American Culinary Federation, is designed to meet the demands for well-trained food service personnel with an emphasis on development of basic techniques of commercial food preparation. Exposure to many facets of food preparation as well as nutrition, sanitation, menu planning, and personnel management used by the professional culinarian are included in the program.
Hands-on experience is a high priority in the laboratory classes, building a solid foundation of basic cooking skills. Upon completion of the program students can obtain employment as cook, baker, sous chef, kitchen manager or supervisor, lead cook in restaurants, hotels, catering operations and other food service organizations. The program provides students with the opportunity to meet the requirements for certification by the American Culinary Federation.
Upon completion of this program, graduates will be able to:
• Demonstrate expertise in preparation of breakfast, lunch and dinner items using ingredients that are wholesome, sanitary and nutritious
• Demonstrate baking principles to prepare and serve pastries and sweets
• Manage people with respect to their many diversities
• Select and prepare meat, seafood and poultry items for service; choose accompaniments for each dish emphasizing different cultures
• Use and care for equipment normally found in the culinary kitchen
• Develop an understanding of basic principles of sanitation and safety and ability to apply the sanitation principles of food preparation
• Develop skills in knife, tool and equipment handling and ability to apply skills in food preparation
• Develop skills in producing a variety of cold food products and buffet designs
• Apply fundamentals of baking and pastry
preparation to a variety of products
• Demonstrate an understanding of quality
• Prepare items for buffet presentations including tallow carvings, bread sculpting and ice carvings
• Prepare for transition from employee to
• Apply principles of menu planning and layout for development of menus in a variety of
facilities and service options
The Vagabond Kitchen, located in the heart of downtown Wheeling, and the focus of a healthy bit of local culinary buzz, has found graduates of West Virginia Northern’s culinary program to be a source of expertise and professionalism.
“People ask me what I think of Northern’s program, and I tell them one thing. My head baker and sous chef are both recent graduates of the program and I couldn’t be any happier with either of them. Every day, they not only live up to the standards and expectations I set as the head chef and owner but they bring new ideas and recipes that continually add to that standard and give our customers a better experience than they would have had otherwise.”
The Vagabond Kitchen prides itself on serving handcrafted food rooted in the local community, and
Northern’s culinary graduates have embraced that and taken it to other levels.
Jamie Moffat, head baker at the Vagabond Kitchen, says it’s that attention and care that has made her invest so deeply.
“It’s just so refreshing to be around people that really care about the food, you know. I mean, it’s nice that Matt is around our age and gives us the freedom to bring our own personality to our work, but it’s deeper than that,” Jamie said.
She added, “Not only does he give us some freedom but he makes sure that we have the very best and most fresh ingredients to work with. He pushes us to not take the easy way out – to really use the things we learned in school about process and making things from scratch. I think a lot of that gets lost after school for too many people because they work for people that don’t hold those same standards. It’s fun to come out of school and be able to build something from the beginning by using all the things you learned.”
Ryan Butler, who was made sous after only a few months on the job, said The Vagabond Kitchen has given him the chance to live his dream.
“I’ve wanted to be a chef from the time I was twelve years old, and I knew I wanted to not only cook but to manage kitchens. Matt has been awesome to learn from, and I’m really appreciative every day that he seems to genuinely appreciate and listen to my ideas and input. Unless he kicks me out, I don’t plan on going anywhere. I feel really lucky.”