Cuesta College is launching a new culinary arts program in August that will allow students to complete their certificate in one intensive semester.
School officials cited significant demand, both locally and nationwide, as one of the driving factors in providing students the opportunity to pursue a Culinary Arts Certificate of Specialization.
The program consists of four courses — Nutrition 213: Food Safety and Sanitation with ServSafe Certification; Culinary Arts 210: Fundamentals I; Culinary Arts 220: Fundamentals II; and Culinary Arts 125: Baking Science I — and will be taught in a professional kitchen at the California Conservation Corps in San Luis Obispo.
“We have local businesses basically knocking down our doors saying, ‘Send us your graduates,’” said nutrition instructor Elisabeth DeSwart. “People that sign up for these classes, they’re going to be funneled right into careers potentially.”
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Cherie Moore, who serves as the division chair of applied behavioral sciences at Cuesta, said the new courses will help students meet the requirements for entry-level employment, offer food safety certification, and credits are transferable to Cal State University schools.
Plus, no prerequisites are needed for students to register.
The program is part of a new partnership between Cuesta and the California Conservation Corps, whose students also will be able to pursue the certification.
Cuesta also partnered with the California Men’s Colony to offer inmates at the San Luis Obispo prison a chance to develop culinary skills and get one step closer to a career once they’re released.
Moore said there are currently 12 students registered for the new program, noting the courses hadn’t officially been announced when most students were signing up for classes. She hopes to get about 20 students registered by the time classes start Aug. 13.
Students can expect to work with local farmers, fresh local produce, chefs from farm-to-table restaurants and more, DeSwart said.
“We have a really good faculty crew coming in,” Moore added. “The students that do the whole program are going to have three different instructors during that semester with a lot of different specialties.”
This isn’t Cuesta’s first crack at a culinary program.
The school’s previous program was dissolved in 2013 when the Board of Trustees unanimously voted to eliminate 10 programs and reduce 12 others to deal with major budget cuts. The move came during a turbulent time when Cuesta’s accreditation was threatened because of deficiencies in several areas.
Now, five years later, faculty members are confident and excited about the direction of the new program.
Moore said she hopes to add advanced baking and international cuisine classes for fall 2019, as well as more hospitality courses that focus on cost control, food and beverage management and event hosting.
“What’s really unique about our program,” Moore said, “is that in a lot of culinary programs they don’t cover the depth that we do of allergens — such as gluten-free diets and plant-based diets — and we cover all of that in detail as well.”
Genevie Agustinez, the CCC Los Padres district director, said the partnership with Cuesta can help transform thousands of young men and women in California by giving them access to meaningful careers.
Agustinez said many corps members arrive in San Luis Obispo without a high school education, and part of the CCC development program helps them earn their diploma.
Exposing them to higher education is an added bonus.
“Traditionally, the conservation corps has developed corps members to be prepare to enter into jobs with forestry, firefighters, conservation preservation type jobs,” Agustinez said. “But, why not culinary? We’ve got the infrastructure here.”