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REALLY Learning to Cook

January 24, 2013

In many households it seems that dinner preparation has become a task of taking something out of the freezer and using the microwave to heat it.  A lot of people say they don’t have time to cook and so, children are not learning how. By moving away from the ability to prepare a range of food at home, enjoyment at restaurants has increased. Despite the economy’s dip the last few years, eating out has increased.

The need for educated kitchen help has been recognized throughout West Virginia with most counties participating in the Pro-Start program.   Developed by the West Virginia Department of Education and the National Restaurant Association, the high school program provides a start in a food service career with professional training in all aspects of operating and maintaining a food service business.

Joshua Hedrick graduated from Beckley’s Academy of Careers and Technology Pro-Start program and is now enrolled at the Mountwest Culinary Arts Program in Huntington. He enjoyed eating so much as a kid that he wanted to become a food critic when he grew up. But then he realized he had to take journalism classes and decided, instead, to really learn to cook.DSC_0007

John Strehle grew up in a large Greek family on the north side of Chicago where he decided at an early age that he wanted to become a fireman. The extended family gathered at his house for Thanksgiving and food always was equated with good times and love. After a stint working at the Chicago Board of Trade, his family then moved to Ashland, Kentucky. At 44 years of age his wife and his mother suggested he go back to school to do something he loved. He is now at Mountwest Culinary Arts Program to really learn how to cook.

Melissa Taylor moved a lot as a kid and always enjoyed cooking, but she really wanted to become a doctor. Organic chemistry was her undoing, however, and she landed in the accounting department at Marshall. She said she could do the work but she certainly was not passionate about it. When her job at Borders bookstore ended, she realized she needed a career that she could love and so she enrolled at Mountwest Culinary Arts Program to really learn how to cook.

These three students, all in their first year of the program, will be part of this year’s Mountwest Culinary Arts team at the Cast Iron Skillet Cook-off at The Greenbrier February 1st and 2nd. The team will also include four community members with a range of cooking experience, as well as Isabel Cross and Larry Perry from the Program.Isabel

Last year Isabel Cross took a team to the Cast Iron Skillet Cook-off at the Greenbrier and they won the Grand Championship. Their experience is explained in this blog published shortly after the event on WVFarm2u.Mountwest

This year they will return to the competition in the Throw-Down category where they will compete against two other teams which scored within 1.5 points of them last January.

The Mountwest Culinary Arts Program in Huntington is part of Mountwest Community and Technical College.  It had been part of Marshall University until a few years ago when the state legislature decided to separate two-year programs from the umbrella of the university.  The Culinary Arts Program moved into a new kitchen facility on 8th Avenue and also has some food service activity on the new campus located off 5th Street Road south of I-64.DSC_0008

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Karl permalink
    January 24, 2013 6:02 pm

    When you visit Vermont you should try to visit St. Johnsbury Academy they have a full restaurant program. The kids run a restaurant for the public. My wife and Mother in-law ate their and it was pretty decent. You may also want to tour the Food Venture Center in Hardwick which is run by the Center for an Agricultural Economy in Hardwick, Vt.

    • January 26, 2013 8:23 pm

      I suspect I will be back more than a few times during my son’s 4 years there….will try to schedule that!

  2. January 26, 2013 7:13 pm

    As a restaurant owner, we appreciate what the school and the students are doing…we’d love to hire one of the graduates, one day! thanks for the great blog and bringing attention to the ProStart program…

    • January 26, 2013 8:23 pm

      I hope to meet the rest of the team when they have their practice session this week, and then to take photos of them during the Throwdown. What a wonderful way for these students to meet so many wonderful people connected in the food field in West Virginia.

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