Hands-on educational programming in the culinary arts are growing at a rapid pace throughout Michigan – not just at the college level, but at several vocational high schools around the state. The Van Buren Technology Center (250 South Street, Lawrence) currently has roughly 50 students enrolled in its “Hospitality Services” program, which is taught by Patti Kenworthy and Diana Stump. The culinary team at Food Dance in Kalamazoo has launched a mentoring program aimed to help educate these students about various aspects of the industry.
“Our students have divided into teams of 4-5 and they are working on coming up with their theme of their restaurant, type of food and menu items,” says Meg Zapalowski, their Integrated English teacher. “The challenge here is to use as many local resources as possible to create the menu. Students are encouraged to research local farms online to find out what products they produce and sell to the public, visit local farms or talk to local residents about where they find local produce or visit local farmers markets – both indoors and out.”
As part of the program, Food Dance Chef Robb Hammond recently visited with the hospitality students to share a presentation about the restaurant’s philosophy, its relationship with local farmers and how he developed the specific menu.
Later this semester, the top team will travel to Kalamazoo for a behind-the-scenes tour of Food Dance to see what it takes to run a locally-focused, farm-to-table restaurant. Students will also have lunch and have their winning entrée featured on the menu.
Students at the VBTC study the art of cooking and gain the organizational skills needed to work in or manage a professional restaurant in either the one- or two-year program. Specifically, students learn how to plan and prepare a variety of foods operating commercial equipment; develop the culinary techniques for good food presentation; prepare for a catering event, serve professionally and provide good customer service; and then they’re given the opportunity to practice these skills in a real-world environment… with real customers.
At the completion of the program, students can receive Pro Start certification or begin the American Culinary Federation (AFC) certification. These levels of instruction prepare students for careers as cooks, chefs, kitchen managers, caterers, pastry chefs, servers and restaurant owner.
Food Dance is a locally-owned business, committed to building an informed and healthy community. The entire team works to provide great experiences, with food that are created through symbiotic relationships with local farmers, cheese makers and producers. Food Dance works hard to provide a positive and rewarding work environment that fosters long-term sustainability, for both its staff and the local community.