Culinary Arts: Education for a Taste of Success: Career and Technical Education Is Serving Up Great Opportunities for Students in Culinary Arts Programs across the Country

Article excerpt

A good meal in a pleasant atmosphere is one of the most enjoyable experiences we can share. Whether it's a romantic dinner for two, a fun-filled event for the whole family or just a way to ensure a nutritious meal after a hectic workday, dining out has become a much more frequent occurrence--and when we're not dining out, we're often taking out. In the February 9, 2004, issue of Newsweek, an article called "Takeout Nation" notes that the biggest growth in the restaurant industry over the past 15 years has been in takeout. But whether it means dining in a restaurant or taking that restaurant meal home to eat, the quality of our dining experiences and the success of the restaurants that serve them depend on the skills and talents of those preparing the meals. Career and technical education is helping to provide the skills and nurture the talents.

According to the National Restaurant Association (NRA), it is estimated that a total of 13.5 million workers will be needed for the rapidly growing restaurant and foodservice industry by the year 2014. The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook agrees that, "Job openings are expected to be plentiful through 2010."

There are also career opportunities that may not come to mind immediately, but career and technical education programs are already being developed to fill those positions. Four years ago, Johnson & Wales University developed a new degree program in culinary nutrition. It combines the executive chef curriculum with that of a registered dietician, so students can graduate as a chef and become a registered dietician. It is the first program of its kind in the country to be certified by the American Dietetic Association.

According to Paul McVety, who is the associate dean of the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales, about a third of the program's graduates go into research chef positions with manufacturing companies. Some go on to become personal chefs for professional sports teams, and others find positions with hotels, spas, hospitals and assisted living facilities, or as food scientists.

The National Restaurant Association, which is the leading business association for the restaurant industry, often notes that the restaurant and foodservice industry is the nation's largest private sector employer, additionally describing the industry as "the cornerstone of the economy, career-and-employment opportunities, and community involvement."

The National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF), the nonprofit organization dedicated to fulfilling the educational mission of the National Restaurant Association as well as a member of the ACTE Business-Education Partnership, focuses on the three key strategies of risk management, recruitment and retention. It encourages young people to consider careers in the industry as part of its recruitment efforts.

In addition to its Scholarships and Mentoring Initiative, NRAEF administers the ProStart program, a state-based program for high school juniors and seniors that links two years of classroom curriculum with a mentored work site experience. According to the NRAEF, the ProStart program has expanded over the past seven years from 18 states to 41 states. It currently educates more than 39,000 young people in restaurant/food service management.

AN OPPORTUNITY FOR INSTRUCTORS

The NRAEF Summer Institutes are five-day programs held at postsecondary institutions across the country. Approximately 250 teachers attend the annual program, where they receive training from industry experts and have the opportunity to network with other teachers, share best practices and tour industry establishments. …