Tag Archives: Arkansas Culinary School

BLOGtober [Old Post]: I’m Certifiable (Pulaski Tech Achieves Significant Culinary and Hospitality Accreditation)

18 Oct

Note: Today’s challenge with the BLOGtober Fest from Arkansas Women Bloggers was to repost an old post. When I went through my archives, however, I found a few that were never finished or posted, mostly due to lack of time to do so. 

I found this very important post in that pile of unfinished projects, and I’ve decided to share it today. In fact, it’s timely in that Pulaski Tech is now working on their new facility and toward reaccreditation, adding certifications in Baking & Pastry as well as Wine Studies (the latter of which is through a different accrediting body). 

Pulaski Tech continues to have the only accredited culinary or hospitality program in Arkansas

Originally written on March 15, 2010

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Yes, it’s official. I’m certifiable.

OK, yes, that way, too. But what I mean is, as a Certified Culinarian. As a student of Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, upon graduation (and completion of a little paperwork) I may now use that title.

Reason being, the school announced on Friday that the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation’s Accrediting Commission (ACFEF) and the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA) has granted it their accreditation status. That gives us students some status in the marketplace, too.

Don’t just take it from me; here’s the official flack from the school itself.

PTC Arkansas Culinary School receives dual accreditation

LITTLE ROCK  –  The Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School today announced that it has received accreditation from the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation’s Accrediting Commission (ACFEF) and the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration (ACPHA).

Dr. Dan F. Bakke, college president, and Todd Gold, director of the PTC Arkansas Culinary School, made the announcement Friday during a news conference at Little Rock-South. Guest speaker Montine McNulty, executive director of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, commended the culinary school for the accomplishment.

With this accreditation, the PTC Arkansas Culinary School joins the ranks of other nationally recognized culinary and hospitality schools, and thus offers students the opportunity to graduate with the title Certified Culinarian or Certified Hospitality Graduate. These certifications will allow graduates to enter the workforce with the most widely recognized culinary and hospitality credentials in the nation.

“These accreditations position Pulaski Technical College as a center of excellence for the culinary and hospitality industries,” Dr. Bakke said. “Tourism and hospitality are leading industries in Arkansas, and we are committed to developing a skilled workforce to meet the needs of those industries.”

The Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School is the only college in Arkansas to offer ACFEF accreditation for an Associate of Applied Science in culinary arts and is the only two-year college in the state to offer ACPHA accreditation for the Associate of Applied Science in hospitality management. ACPHA/ACFEF dual accreditation is offered at only 15 colleges and universities in the United States.

Additionally, the PTC Arkansas Culinary School apprenticeship program has received American Culinary Federation recognition as the only culinary apprenticeship program in the state.

Most importantly, these accreditations are widely recognized objective benchmarks in the culinary and hospitality professions. Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School graduates can expect to gain greatly enhanced employability based on their levels of skill and expertise as measured by these rigorous accrediting bodies.

Pulaski Technical College is a comprehensive, two-year college that serves the educational needs of central Arkansas through more than 90 occupational/technical degree and certificate programs, a university-transfer curriculum and specialized programs for business and industry.

The college’s mission is to provide access to high quality education that promotes student learning, to enable individuals to develop to their fullest potential and to support the economic development of the state.

Images from the announcement ceremony:

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Looking Back at Culinary School: A Story Best Told in Time

2 Oct

Tickets from Food IV service on a different night. Mine were messier.

Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote this post, other than a little fiddling I did today. I wrote it after a particularly sharp disagreement with one of my chef instructors at culinary school.

The original title, simply, “A Story Best Told in Time,” alluded to the fact that I couldn’t even write details about what happened yet. In the perennial words of Little Critter, I was so mad. Today, I’m over it, so I will.

In Food Production IV, a final-level class in which we did fine-dining service every Friday night, we took turns on different stations. It was my second time doing table service. Before this class, I’d never waited tables, ever. The first time I did in class, it was ugly, but it worked out.

This second time, not so much.

I got table numbers backwards. I got orders out of order. The chef was already in a rare mood that month or so, and my bumbling didn’t set very well at all. “These are big mistakes,” he bellowed from the kitchen as I ran back and forth.

However, things started to get better after drinks and appetizers went down. As I jogged from the kitchen to the dining room, I started to think to myself, “I could do this. This isn’t so bad.”

Then things got weird.

Appetizer dishes started coming out that we didn’t order, even after I had corrected all my bumbling. A runner brought a strange-looking version of the amuse bouche (pre-appetizer bite) to me. “Chef said you needed a vegetarian amuse,” she said. Not only did I not, but we weren’t even on that course anymore. What?

The entree plates were taking forever. Things were crazy in the kitchen, as they often were, but we all seemed to be a little off kilter this evening.

Finally, I saw a runner jog a tray into the dining room. She didn’t signal that it was for my table, as is custom, and she sat it near the other server, so I kept refilling drinks and waiting on my tables as other entrees came out.

Twenty minutes later or so, I came to the excruciating realization that the tray, still sitting out, was for one of my tables. A VIP one.

I’ve never had that kind of butt-chewing from a chef.

And honestly, I deserved it. I didn’t think so at the time, because the runner is supposed to tell me that it’s mine. But a good server would know what dishes were still needed, what table they belonged to, and whether or not they’d arrived yet from the kitchen.

It is with this year-later mea culpa that I understand even more deeply what culinary education is all about. We’re all pretty decent cooks, or we wouldn’t be there. It’s about taking what we may not be so good at and stretching us, making us leaders.

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When I started this real-time writing adventure with Pulaski Technical College’s Arkansas Culinary School, I wondered how all that would work out. From the beginning, the administration was aware of my project. Sometimes, my instructors knew that I was writing about their classes, and other times, they didn’t. In my last semester, I got nearly weekly reports from the culinary school office of another instructor who loved my summary of a class, and who may or may not have even known I had been writing similar stories for the past two years.

Before I started school, several friends in the industry recommended I read The Making of a Chef by Michael Ruhlman. Similar to myself, Ruhlman started out as a writer, and he went to the Culinary Institute of America to write about the process of becoming a chef. In fact, while we both went to school out of a passion for the culinary arts, he seemed to go as more of an emic research project.

Ruhlman’s thought process through the voyage from writer to chef is a fascinating one. And through this voyage, he was challenged physically, mentally and emotionally, often by way of conflict. His story of interaction with one chef instructor, Michael Pardus, was way more explosive than anything I ever experienced.

Today, Ruhlman and Pardus are close friends. They get together at one house or the other and just cook, experiment, and talk. Theirs is a fiery story that just couldn’t be told as it was happening, but with the comfort and insight of time.

I hope for this kind of relationship someday with my chef instructors. Chefs are often a passionate lot, and we did occasionally butt heads. But in the end, that passion is exactly what makes what we do so special.

Hey guys: Cooking party at my house, in a year or two. I’ll bring the Humble Pie.

Pulaski Tech’s New Culinary Facility to Feature Community School, Hospitality Training

14 Sep

Upstairs looking down and across the atrium area in the new Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Center at Pulaski Technical College.

I blogged through two and a half years of Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, and if you followed along, I hope you enjoyed it even half as much as I did. Thanks to an incredible faculty and staff making the most of non-optimal facilities, my education there was an incredibly rewarding experience.

If, by chance, this humble blog encouraged you to attend the school, I must admit being more than a little jealous. Those starting now will at least graduate from an incredible new Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management Center, for which I recently got to see some detailed plans by Taggart Architects.

Continue reading

PTC Culinary School Hosts Certified Master Chefs

4 Jun

If you’re a foodie, it may interest you to know that there is an elite group of chefs in the nation. Their allegiance lies in that they have all successfully completed a grueling, eight-day testing process that covers both culinary knowledge and practical skills.

There are currently only 66 people who have achieved the ranking of Certified Master Chef (CMC), and only 11 who hold the similar title in the pastry realm as a Certified Master Pastry Chef (CMPC).

This Tuesday, June 5, two of these chefs will be in Little Rock to judge the Diamond Chef Arkansas competition, taking place that night at the Statehouse Convention Center. Certified Master Chefs John Johnstone and Peter Timmins have also graciously offered to speak at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School that morning, 10 a.m. until noon, to discuss becoming (and being) a Certified Master Chef. Students and the public are encouraged to attend.

The CMC certification comes from the American Culinary Federation, the same organization that governs accreditation of culinary schools such as Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. Pulaski Tech gained accreditation status from the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation in 2010, giving all its students the opportunity to graduate with the ACF’s Certified Culinarian status.

The American Culinary Federation has a fascinating section of their website about becoming a CMC, with a video. It is definitely awe-inspiring.

Event details:

Certified Master Chef Presentation

Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School (South Campus)

Crain Community Room
10 a.m. – noon

Free to students and the public

Diamond Chef 2012 Preliminaries Today

6 Mar

March 6, 2012

Note: See real-time updates here.

Can you get away from the office or the house this afternoon? Some super-talented chefs, converging upon the lobby of the Peabody Hotel in downtown Little Rock, will make it worth your foodie while. And, while the finale event will cost you $150, today’s drop-by-when-you-can style event is free.

From 1 – 7 p.m. today, the Diamond Chef Arkansas preliminary competition will take place amid a blur of proteins and pantry products, many of which will be revealed to the competitors in the form of a mystery basket, as on the popular television show “Chopped.”

The chefs, with the help of one sous chef, will have 40 minutes to prepare a dish using all the ingredients in the basket. Judges will score the dishes based on taste and creativity, as well as technical proficiency and sanitation.

On June 5, Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School will hold the Diamond Chef finale, a ticketed event showdown between today’s two top contenders. At that event, guests will enjoy a fine dining menu while the chefs compete on stage, creating a three-course meal using a protein that will be announced just moments before the competition begins.

Tickets to the finale event cost $150 per person and can be purchased by calling Yvette Parker at (501) 812-2271 or e-mailing yparker@pulaskitech.edu

Continue to watch for additional posts here at Fancy Pants Foodie or on Twitter at @ARFoodie for real-time updates.

Preliminary competition schedule for today:

Heat #1 – 1 p.m.- Chef Cynthia Malik and sous Richard Goetz (Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School) vs. Chef Matt Cooper and sous Mario Flores (Lulav)

Heat #2 – 2 p.m. – Chef Donnie Ferneau (Ferneau Restaurant) vs. Chef Jason Knapp (UCA/Aramark)

Heat #3 – 3 p.m. – Chef Bonner Cameron (Ya Ya’s Euro Bistro) vs. Chef Stephen Burrow (Clinton Presidential Center)

Heat #4 – 4 p.m. – Chef Jeffrey Ferrell (Capital Hotel) vs. Chef Diana Bratton (Taco Mama and Café 1217)

Heat #5 – 5 p.m.: Semi-finals

Heat #6 – 6 p.m.: Semi-finals


Rawking Out Chef Ball Tonight

26 Feb

Forget the other award shows — the place to be tonight is Pulaski Technical College for the 2012 Chef Ball. This event, hosted by the Arkansas Chapter of the American Culinary Federation, celebrates the state’s practicing and training culinarians.

The event features several expertly-prepared courses, each prepared by a different chef (most of whom are instructors at PTC’s Arkansas Culinary School) and a team of student assistants.

Follow me tonight on Twitter (@ARFoodie) for live photos and updates. For now, salivate over this incredible artisan bread (pugliese, sesame crackers and focaccia) made by instructor Chef Billy Ginocchio.

House-Made Cheese and Bubble Gum Pink Ravioli

1 Nov

Our finished plate of pink pasta, with lemon cheese filling, strawberry and white chocolate sauces.

In Garde Manger class, we’ve been studying cheeses and making a few of them ourselves.

There’s something about this that makes me giddy. I told several people, “It’s like, making food. From nothing.”

Last week, our group made a fresh (meaning unaged) lemon cheese, and our homework assignment was to develop a dessert recipe to prepare the next week. We decided to make a dessert lasagna, using a strawberry puree (tomato sauce), chopped chocolate (ground beef) and the cheese. There was some fiddling around with gluten-free options for my sake, but the supplies for such things are low at the school. So we decided to go with phyllo dough, making it more of a napoleon.

This week, the chef turned us loose to create our goodies. We made the napoleon, as pictured above. The sauce was particularly fun…I got creative (er, bossy) with my group and added balsamic vinegar and red wine to some strawberry puree and sugar, and cooked it down. De.LISH.

So, long story short, we present our napoleon to the chef, and she loves it. We think we’re done. We mention that the original idea was using real pasta, and she says…”Okay, make me one like that.” Oooookayyy…

No problem, actually. This class is fun because we get to play and make stuff up on the fly, even if the beginning is a prompt from the instructor. One of my group partners is quite adept at making pasta, so he whipped up a quick batch, adding some red food coloring as the instructor requested.

We decide on making raviolis, filling them with the lemon cheese and dressing them with two sauces, the strawberry and a white chocolate sauce. While Pasta-Guy and I have done this, the other two students hadn’t, so much of the rest of their class was spent playing and filling. PG and I boiled the pasta and finished the sauces and the plate, which turned out pretty nice, considering its impromptu provenance.

It was also a fanTAStic week in Food IV. And that is saying a lot. Things are looking up; I may know how to cook after all. More on that later.

Happy cooking!

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Food Production 4 Dishes

18 Oct

Maple Glazed Salmon with Cranberry Chutney and Succotash and Cheddar Souffle

This semester is clipping right along at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School. Next semester will be my last.

I have mixed feelings about that. Although I’m soooo ready to be done, I really love the classes, the chefs, and the opportunities I have in labs to learn and experiment that I may not have again. (I mean, really, I want to make pate again, but buying all that equipment, not to mention the ingredients?)

My most demanding class right now, as I have said, is Food Production 4, as it should be. This class is the culmination of everything we’ve learned in culinary school. It’s usually taken in one’s final semester, but just due to scheduling, I have just two more classes to eek out from here.

So far, in this class, I’ve worked garde manger (pantry or “cold” station, where salads and such are made), front-of-house service, and a good bit of the grill station when acting as sous chef.

I’ve sent a few photos via Twitter (I’m more active there these days, due to my schedule), but I thought I’d share some photos here of our dishes from our Thursday night dinner service.

(Think I could use parentheses a little more? They’re my favorite vice.)

I believe we are booked solid for the remainder of the semester, but do check back next semester for lunch.

Enjoy!

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Stupid computers and Twice-Baked Potato Bites

10 Sep

Finished potato-y goodness, minus some paprika and parm we sprinkled on at the end.

I wrote a long, satisfying blog post yesterday, forgot to hit “save,” and left the computer in a hurry. Turns out autosave only works if you’ve manually saved at least once.

Bleh.

I told the long version of this week’s restaurant service at school, most notably when I nearly cut off the end of my left index finger with a peeler. Typing this is extremely difficult. I hope you’re feeling the love through my efforts here.

I suppose I’ll try to rewrite it, because it was actually quite good. Dangit. So I’ll just give you a brief rundown of what we did in another class this week.

In banquets and catering, we had a long (looong) discussion on the business end of starting a catering business: insurance, taxes, and pricing to make a profit. If you’ve ever priced an event and nearly fell out at the cost, I now know it’s with good reason. In our book’s example, the caterer had to build about $1300 into every job just to cover overhead. Wow.

At least now we know how to actually make money and not blow it on the light bill (and rent, and salaries) we forgot to work in.

A fellow student pipes the yummy potato mixture back into the baked shells.

Afterward, we went into the kitchen to make some appetizers for an event the school was catering. My group made the most awesome tiny, twice-baked potatoes. We were given some leeway on how to flavor the filling, so my friend Deborah and I came up with chives, goat cheese and a splash of worchestershire. Oh, and a buncha butter. And salt and pepper, of course. Turned out great.

I started to type a recipe, and quickly found I have no idea how to quantify it. But basically, you get size “B” red potatoes (the smallish ones), cut off the ends, and cut the whole thing in half. With the larger (from the middle) side up, scoop out some potato with a melon baller or teaspoon. Oil and season the “shells,” and bake at 325 for about 40 minutes, or until they’re browned and done all the way through.

Meanwhile, boil all the scooped out potato in some salted water, and when it’s tender, drain, reserving some of the water. Put in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment and some butter, and mix until smooth. Now the fun part: mix in cheese, herbs, whatever you want. If the mixture is dry, pour back in some of the starchy water.

Put the resulting yummy goodness in a piping bag and pipe into the shells. (Or, you could just use a spoon if you want.) Top with paprika and shredded cheese if you like. We froze them at this point for later use, but you can go ahead and brown them in the oven some more and serve.

These were yummay! I’m starting to think it may not be so horrible to cater an event. The idea horrified me before. These little bits of deliciousness were inspiring.

What kind of little goodies have you made for formal events? Ever cater anything? Let me know your thoughts.

Pulaski Tech Prepares for New $15M Culinary Facility

23 Aug

Chef Todd Gold, Director of Programs at Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School, answers questions after Monday's student orientation.

As part of the school’s stated vision to “make Arkansas a culinary destination,” Pulaski Technical College Arkansas Culinary School Director of Programs Todd Gold announced plans on Monday for a new, $12.5 – 15 million facility for the program, estimated to be completed in about two years.

The announcement was made at an orientation for students of the culinary program, which included an introduction to the program’s staff and a review of uniform and other policies. (Students: Watch for a separate post detailing the orientation.)

The program is currently at full capacity, with 350 students currently attending hands-on classes and about 150 taking general education classes, waiting for the culinary classes to become available. Culinary classes are currently taught at Pulaski Tech’s north and south campuses, although headquartered at the latter.

Gold said the new facility will include teaching kitchens specifically designed for stocks, soups and sauces; baking; and meat and seafood (butchery). The meat and seafood kitchen will be held at 40 degrees, “like a huge walk-in [refrigerator],” Gold said, so carcasses may be safely held and broken down from a larger size.

A new wine studies center will include stadium seating and special features at each seat to assist the learner in viewing and evaluating different types of wine.

All details about the new facility are still considered preliminary, since the bond issue to pay for the project won’t happen until next month. But plans have been swift for months now, with the process to choose an architect currently underway.

“We received 21 proposals from architects,” Gold said, “and they will be reviewed by a committee to choose the top four. These will do oral presentations, and we should be able to select one by mid-October.”

The new facility is planned to be about 40,000 square feet and two stories tall, and will be located on the north side of the parking lot for the current Pulaski Tech South building on Interstate 30, near Bryant. The school’s truck driving education program will be moved from this space to another location.

“This will be state-of-the-art,” Gold said. “I would put it up against any other culinary education facility.”