Pellissippi State Community College is relocating and expanding its culinary arts program, with the opening this month of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on the Friendsville campus.
“We have a state-of-the-art facility that will have everything a student needs to know when they are done, whether it is management courses, cost control courses or cutting courses at the knife. We run the gamut when it comes to cooking,” said chef and program coordinator Joseph Blauvelt.
“We’re going from about 1,400 square feet to 4,800 square feet,” he explained, from a converted cafeteria on the Hardin Valley campus to an entire wing in the new Blount County building.
Baking and the addition of a pastry concentration to the college’s culinary arts associate’s degree program is “the icing on the cake,” Blauvelt said.
“There was strong demand from many of our supporting partners for the program,” said chef and instructor Amanda McReynolds. “Blackberry Farm came in and partnered with the program, and they really wanted our students to be more versed in baking, especially chocolate work.”
The Blackberry Farm Foundation announced a $250,000 grant to the culinary arts program at the new Workforce Development Center in 2020.
Pellissippi State students had used kitchen facilities at the University of Tennessee before the college converted a cafeteria for the culinary arts program on the Hardin Valley campus two years ago.
The Workforce Development Center has a “pantry” room, kept 15 degrees cooler for the preparation of items such as salads and sandwiches, and a fridge-freezer of 40 feet by 12 feet, with access from the galleys and the dock.
“We will be making our own blocks of ice for ice carving,” said Sayona Shoemaker-Groover, acting director of culinary support.
A Cooking Class 1 is full for the upcoming semester, and there is a waiting list that could open a second class if enough registrations arrive by August 15 for classes starting August 22. Although this course is not available, students can begin working on other requirements for the degree, which takes approximately two years.
Some students who have already completed their culinary arts degree requirements return for the new pastry concentration. As Laura Cutshaw and Melissa Cox listened last week to McReynolds describe what they would learn in the new classes, their enthusiasm was evident.
Chocolate, cakes and bread
The pastry concentration requires three courses in addition to a capstone course with a final three-course plated dessert.
All Culinary Arts students take a basic pastry course. In Advanced Baking and Pastry Arts, they will learn about chocolates, confectionery, frozen desserts and pastillage, a glaze that dries firmly and is used for decorations.
Artisan and specialty breads will include bagels, English muffins, Italian panettone, Pullman breads, German stollen and “a lot more work with sourdoughs and sour appetizers,” McReynolds said.
European cakes and pies will include Russian charlotte, Black Forest cake and pithivier, which McReynolds described as being made with puff pastry and traditionally filled with almond cream.
“I’ve always wanted to make a charlotte russe,” Cutshaw said, but she’s waiting to try it in class first, knowing she’ll learn some important tips.
“I always use the pie crust recipe we learned in the basics of baking; it’s perfect,” she said. “I have a lot of family members who want birthday pies now,” and her specialty is a cherry mix with a lattice top.
“Everyone talks about how good the crust is,” Cutshaw said.
Cox is eager to combine her interest in art through painting and drawing with her love of cooking, and she has a particular interest in working with chocolate.
“They’re going to have to learn the hard way to temper chocolate by hand first, and then they’ll learn the easy way and let the machine do it for them,” McReynolds said. New equipment will temper three gallons of chocolate at a time.
Cox has already made a splash with the dessert in his culinary cornerstone, peach sorbet with raspberry and mint julep coulis. “It was fabulous – I got to taste it,” Cutshaw said.
“Not the Food Network”
Pellissippi State’s Culinary Arts program is designed to prepare someone to rise through the ranks to become an executive chef or open their own restaurant, bakery, or catering business. Courses include food safety and sanitation, nutrition, purchasing and cost control, and restaurant operations management.
Cox said her friends wondered why she was taking college classes when they thought she already knew how to cook, but she hopes to one day have a catering business. “I don’t want a business where I only sell cupcakes. I want to do all the baking and all the fancy looking things,” she said.
Cutshaw hopes to own a bakery and make wedding cakes.
In Culinary 1, “My first statement is, ‘This isn’t the Food Network.’ There are duties; there are reviews,” Blauvelt said. “It’s as far away from Food Network as you can get. It’s college.
“We teach them industry-grade techniques and skills,” McReynolds said.
In addition to coursework, students must complete a 135-hour internship over 15 weeks to earn their associate degree. “We have more employers calling us for students to work than we have students,” Blauvelt said.
The college is eager to work with industry leaders and, in addition to Blackberry Farm, its advisory board includes chefs such as Alex Gass of Fire & Salt, Kendale Ball of Simpl and Jeffrey DeAlejandro of OliBea, a- he noted.
While many students come from Knox and Blount counties, others come from Sweetwater, Cleveland, Watrburg, and Harriman. The students are a mix of those straight out of high school and those like Cox, whose son convinced her to enroll when he entered another program at Pellissippi State.
While Blauvelt and McReynolds said they’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars earning their associate degrees, community college students can use the Tennessee Promise or Tennessee Reconnect scholarships and earn money for lab fees while working. at events.
As part of their coursework, Pellissippi culinary students will prepare a meal for 120 people next month at a meeting of the Tennessee Board of Regents, including presidents of community colleges and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology.
They will also have a table at the 20th A Taste of Blount on September 8th.
“My goal is to have students start competing, hopefully as early as next summer,” at events hosted by the American Culinary Foundation, Blauvelt said. “They will learn more doing a competition, I think, than they would a year in class.”
“It teaches you different industry dynamics that you won’t get in the classroom,” he said. “Teamwork is important.”
While the degree program is designed for working in the food industry, Pellissippi also hopes to add evening classes for the general public next year as well.