Culinary Arts at American River College

Culinary Arts at American River College

October 19, 2019 4 By Stanley Isaacs


I think the culinary profession is an exciting
field to go into: it’s dynamic, it is constantly changing, there’s trends in food. There’s
so many different areas you can go into. I love the page of the kitchen, the fast page,
the rhythm of it. And I love the camaraderie among the teachers and the students. It’s
really a fun place to come be and learn. It’s just such an eye-opening experience
for you. You get hands-on training; everything that you do is everything you’re going to
do in real life. You can get a job worldwide in food, you can
work on a cruise ship, you can work in a resort; you can do small, you can do large. There’s
just such variety here. You get to handle customers and understanding
and knowing the real world will be like. It’s not one of those programs where, “Oh,
I’m just going to skip a day.” You come in wanting to go to class. What you’re going to find here is find real-world
teachers that are going to give you real-world experience. They’re going to get you ready
and prepped to go out there and work. We offer both degrees and certificates. We
offer a certificate in Introductory Baking, we offer a certificate in Culinary Arts & Hospitality
Management, as well as a degree in Hospitality Management for the students. So they’re
welcome to do any one of those or all of those if they’re interested, and then it just
depends on what their goals are in terms of where they want to work in the industry. We have a lot of students that graduate and
start their own catering company or a food truck. They work in a bakery, a restaurant,
a hotel environment, work for a caterer. We have graduates that are working as the
Pastry Chef at Ella Restaurant here in town, the Pastry Chef at Biba in town, the Pastry
Chef at Waterboy here in in town, the Executive Sous Chef at Ella. We have students working
at Gary Danko in San Francisco as well. I’ve owned a bakery for about 30 years,
Tarts & Truffles, a local Sacramento bakery. Before that I made pastries in a french restaurant.
My background really helps me teach the students what it’s like in business. I’m not just
here to teach them how to make a cake at home, which they will learn to do, but this is job
training. The teachers here are amazing. Each one is
unique. No two teachers are the same in this program. Chef Judy is an awesome instructor. Working
with her has actually been a pleasure because a lot of the stuff that she teachers is real
life. She’s no-games. This is what’s going to happen in the real world, and if you can’t
be prepared for it then this is not the job for you. So I try to get them to do some time management.
I keep telling them use your baker brain, your baker brain is going to say “What’s
next, what’s next?” Instead of doing one apple pie today, you’re really doing 50,
so what can we do to speed things up. So the business background really helps for that.
Rather than just knowing baking, I know the business end of it. The new facilities offer the students the
opportunity to work in a multitude of lab classrooms which are specifically designed
for different teaching styles and learning needs. We have a baking laboratory which is
specific to baking with multiple types of ovens. We have an introductory lab which has
more ovens and stovetops so that students get individual practice on items that they
need to do. And we have a more advanced kitchen which is designed for multiple large-scale
catering large-scale production. We’re learning everything from how to bake
french bread, to make rolls, cookies, biscuits scones, european pastries, napoleons, european-style
layer cakes, american-style layer cakes. So the icing you saw us do today will be for
our final exam where we’re going to have to ice a cake and do some writing on it as
you would want a cake to look to be sold professionally. And then there’s also the culinary cooking
side of it, where we learn what’s the difference between braising and stewing, and just all
the little details that you don’t really think about when you’re cooking at home. We have a student-run, fine-dining restaurant
that is open 3 days a week, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. We do serve lunch only and the
students run both the front of the house as well as the back of the house as part of that.
the Sacramento Bee has given that restaurant 4 stars in its last three reviews. We have a food theory class in professional
cooking and other classes that lead up to the Oak Cafe. The students that are in the
Oak Cafe are preparing all the food there, that’s on them. That’s a real exciting
class for our students especially now with out great new facility. Everything that we have in the facility is
at a professional level so that students have the opportunity to work with the same sorts
of ovens and equipment they would see in a regular restaurant. You know that this is how it will be in the
real world. Nothing is sugar-coated. Everything is student-run. We’re on a time schedule.
We have everything set up. We have a second class that we call “front
of the house” or Dining Room Management those are your servers. You’re expected
to be there like any restaurant, early morning and you stay until the work is done. It’s such a different experience. It’s
wonderful to see the food go out, the food plated, being set up, and coming back completely
empty. [Customer speaking]
Oh that’s beautiful! Look at the pomegranate seeds. The current facility holds 70 people. We do
about 110 to 120 lunches a day through there. Additionally on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday,
we have a retail bakery that is open and the baking students come in as early as 6 AM to
start their baking to make sure they’re ready to run the bakery each day. The Candy Lab is a temperature controlled
room. We have marble slabs on the countertop. And that is usually in our advanced baking
class. So they make caramels, and they make truffles, and they temper chocolate, and they
make all kinds of different candies. The benefits of this program over other programs
are first of all the price. As a community college, you have only a small price that
you are going to be paying. You’ll be walking out of this with a degree and not a whole
lot of student debt—which is really important because no matter where you graduate from,
you will be starting as an introductory line employee. So you’re not going to be making
a huge wage, and it would be terrible to start with huge debt as you go into that. We get money from the restaurant and the bakery,
coffee cart that we run that pays for all of our lab materials. So our labs don’t
cost anything. Essentially it’s tuition, books and equipment. So it’s very economical
and very affordable. Even though it’s the same class every semester
that I teach, it’s always different. And the students are fun. I love working with
the students. I have all ranges of ability and all ages in here. And this is a beautiful
environment. It’s just fun! It’s fun to come here. I think that this is the best route for anybody,
especially if you cannot afford a private institution and you do not want to be in debt.
My best bet is to come here and learn all that you can, because these teachers and chefs
are willing to teach you, and so are your peers. They all have different experiences
as well. I highly suggest coming here. You learn so much in this program that I’m
going to be leaving as a whole different person. The facilities here are outstanding, and the
instruction here is among the best that you’ll find in Northern California. If you ask any
chef in the Sacramento region, they will definitely tell you to come to American River College.