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Video: Culinary Culture at El Centro College

Video Transcript

[ MUSIC ]

[STEVE DESHAZO] The food and hospitality industry is the cornerstone of the city of Dallas.

Here in downtown around the school there are hotels, restaurants, the West End, the Dallas Convention Center. We've got Reunion. We've got the Main Street District. We've got Harwood popping up down by American Airlines Center and Victory. Lowest Greenville, Ross Avenue, Uptown, West Village…

This creates a flashpoint of culinary culture and El Centro College is right in the middle of it.

[ MUSIC ]

[STEVE DESHAZO] The Food and Hospitality Institute at El Centro College is a very diverse program with lots of options for our students.

Our classes look like the united nations. And it's a wonderful thing to have a diversity in our classroom, not only of people and culture but also diversity of age group.

We take students from all different types of backgrounds with all sorts of types of goals and help give them the context for our industry so they can choose the path for themselves.

[CHRIS LALONDE] Tuesday lunch is where students get to put into practice all the things they've learned.

They're restaurant owner, manager, chef for a day. Basically they're running it like if it was their own restaurant.

This is the one class where they get to basically plan everything themselves, choose the items, and execute it through the rest of the class working in groups.

[LEAH ROBERTS] The reason why I got into culinary was because I wanted to extend my knowledge on cooking food and baking.

I’m actually studying food and hospitality management.

I like the front of the house, I’m a lot better at it.

But I did want to learn how to cook food the proper way. Because at home I would mess up things and I was like, well I don't know what I did wrong, and so this kind of helps me understand where I was messing up and where I was doing good at.

[MICHAELA LAY] I checked out a few other culinary schools, even some out-of-state, and El Centro's culinary program really stuck out to me.

I was very serious about what I wanted to do and if there wasn't a school that was gonna back me up, I didn't want to do it.

So El Centro offered both, you know, being close to home but also the support I needed to really seriously pursue this career.

[LEAH ROBERTS] I love this school, to be honest.

This is the best class I’ve ever been in.

I mean everybody here wants to be here, everybody's here to learn, everybody's just a big family and it's perfect.

[CHRIS LALONDE] You have to enjoy serving people because, in a sense, that's what you're doing.

At the most basic level, you're serving somebody something that you made.

It's more or less like any other handcraft or arts and crafts or wherever people

Actually do something with their hands for somebody else.

[HAYDEN HAGMANN] It is extremely creative, it's... I mean loads of self expression because you're...you're able to create something out of virtually nothing and you...

I mean, get to make it completely yours, I mean, which is something that not many other majors get to do and so to have a facility like El Centro I mean basically centered around that, it's beautiful. I mean you get to make your own works of art every day.  

[SAMUEL GUZMAN] It's, it's really nice to know that I can make people happy with food and what's better than making people happy?

This is the dining service class. It's our job to serve here and wait the tables.

I pretty much thought that being in culinary arts I would just be a chef and I'd be stuck in the kitchen all day, but it turns out there's a whole other side.

Because if you want to excel in culinary arts it's not enough just to know that you can cook well, you want to be able to please your guests because you can have the best food in the world but if you have terrible service no one's gonna want to come back to your restaurant.  

[STEVE DESHAZO] Because of our long history in the Dallas community and the fact that our alumni are found sprinkled throughout the north Texas restaurant and hotel industry, people always come to El Centro College when they're looking for qualified professionals.  

[DEAN FEARING] The apprenticeship program at El Centro has been in my career for a long time, even when I was at the mansion on turtle creek and even at fearing's our apprenticeship program from El Centro has been nothing but the best with studious, hardworking, professional young cooks.  

[STEVE DESHAZO] When we talk about the apprenticeship program, this is a very robust, probably one of the most demanding, culinary education programs available.

It requires, work hours over three years documented as a part of a program combined with classroom attendance. Really what we're talking about is creating extremely talented and skilled cooks who can go out and become the next top chef.  

[ MUSIC ]  

[AUDREY PRIEST] I cooked a seared chicken breast stuffed with a mushroom duxelle forced meat.

I was confident in what I was making 'cause I’ve made it so many times, but just how it was set up because it was in a convention center room so the table and how that was set up was definitely different than what I was used to practicing at work with.

Because I knew what I was doing I was able to make it look like I didn't feel disorganized, when I was really on the inside freaking out because I thought I was screwing everything up.  

[ANNOUNCER] ...in first place and a gold medal winner, audrey priest.  

[AUDREY PRIEST] but I did it.  

[ APPLAUSE ]  

[ANNOUNCER] Next we have Crystal Morrill. Crystal won a silver medal.  

[CRYSTAL MORRILL] I cooked a Malaysian chicken curry. I practiced a lot at home. My roommate got a lot of curry dinners, at least once a week I was making curry.

I think these competitions are important because it's a learning experience. You're learning number one, how to be prepared 'cause that is a very important thing in this industry.

If you're not prepared, you know, and you get hit with a rush then you're done. When you're cooking under pressure with people watching you, you're creating your own dish, they don't tell you what to make, and then you get critiqued by, you know, these fantastic chefs that have been in the industry for years and years.

Any time I see an experienced chef I always listen and take notes because it's important. They know what they're talking about.  

[VIJAY SADHU IN KITCHEN] This fish, it cooks really, really fast...  

[VIJAY SADHU] When a new student comes into my kitchen, it's my responsibility to make sure they're perfect.  

[VIJAY SADHU IN KITCHEN] Press it like this...  

[CRYSTAL MORRILL] The apprenticeship program is basically work study. It's full time school, full time work. It's not for the faint hearted at all; it's hard work.

Before culinary, my life was, you know, pretty boring. I would sit in an office all day at a computer talking on conference calls on the phone.

But I was talking one day at work with a co-worker about our passions and our dreams and he told me about El Centro's culinary program and I didn't even know a community college offered the culinary program.

So, you know, I got online, I researched it, I thought I could make this work you know, this is affordable.  

[STEVE DESHAZO] When we get students like Crissy, it's basically taking that workplace discipline they already have and redirecting it towards our content area.

Crissy has just latched onto an immersion into the culinary learning culture and that's the number one advice I’ve given to students in my fourteen years in education - when you're looking for a culinary education program you want to find one where you can immerse yourself into that culture and that's what our most successful students have done.  

[ MUSIC ]  

[GABRIELA MCCORMICK] I graduated from El Centro with a culinary arts degree.

[DEAN FEARING] Gabby has been with me for six years. I saw the spark in her, which I still see the spark in six years later and it's just that real touch of "I want to be somebody in this business" and I love that in young cooks.  

[GABRIELA MCCORMICK] It all happened so fast, but I got a promotion within two years and then another promotion and then another promotion.

So it's just, if you want it you just have to work hard. You know, with the Ritz Carlton you can go as far as you want to, the opportunities are endless.  

[GABRIELA MCCORMICK IN KITCHEN] Oh, did Darryl talk to you about that chipotle? He needed to reduce it more, did it get reduced more?  

[ASSISTANT] yes. It did.  

[GABRIELA] okay.  

[GABRIELA MCCORMICK] So I’m the sous chef here, so I’m the driver. So dean says what he wants and then I make it happen... And I make sure everybody else knows how it's happening and then I also work on some of the menus with our chef de cuisine.  

[CHRIS LALONDE] The idea of being a chef is completely different than being a cook, you know. Chefs are managers.

It's really the management skills that a chef can get that is gonna make the difference for that person in their career. And so you've got to be able to develop, you've got to be able to train, you've got to be able to recognize talent...  

[INSTRUCTOR] ...and try to get them better, and if your bad employee...  

[CHRIS LALONDE] and then on the other side of that you've got to be able to control costs, you've got to be able to purchase food, you've got to be able to write menus.  

[GABRIELA MCCORMICK] I think the teachers at El Centro really push you. They weren't gonna put up with your B.S.

You're either there to do it or you're not. They also set you up for real work life experiences.  

[STEVE DESHAZO] That merging of classroom learning with the repetitious workplace experience, that's what makes our students very marketable in the, in the job market even before they graduate.

But when they do graduate they've got a great deal of professional experience as well as their earned credential and so that sets them head and shoulders above all their peers.  

[ MUSIC ]  

[DEAN FEARING] I think it's an exciting time to be in the culinary school, to know that you're gonna have a job when you get out because there are so many restaurants and so many opportunities in the hospitality business. It's amazing!  

[VIJAY SADHU] There are a lot of opportunities. I mean like I myself, I need people here, you know, I need good students.  

[ MUSIC ]  

[MICHAELA LAY] El Centro has given me the opportunity to grow and El Centro has given me a great base to be able to learn in this kind of environment.

It's a growth opportunity like no other.  

[HAYDEN HAGMANN] Just kind of learning that I could make this a career and I could do what I love for years to come, without a doubt I’m excited for the future.  

[CHASTITY ALEXANDER] The culinary world has entertained every single part of me that craves something different. There's just been so many blessings in this industry that to prove to me that this is where I belong. Yeah!  

[ MUSIC ]  

[CRYSTAL MORRILL] I feel like good things are in store for me, I am excited about this career, I’ve already come so far in just, you know, a year and a half that I’ve been in it.

So, I’m super excited. Good things are in store.  

[ MUSIC & LAUGHTER ]  

[ MUSIC TAG ]