The Traverse Bay Area Career Tech Center is home to students from 31 different schools within Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. With 23 unique programs to chose from (ranging from healthcare to public safety to welding), students learn professional skills that can be applied to real-world situations and will prepare them for success in future careers. One of the most popular programs at Career Tech is Culinary Arts. Taught by Chefs Daryl Collins, Craig Sweeney, and Adriana Martin, students take a hands-on approach to learning about the food industry by running their own restaurant, the World Class Café, where students prepare a variety of food and desserts to serve to customers, wait tables, run cash registers and handle money, and clean the kitchen.
As part of the learning experience, the Culinary Arts Program hosts an annual, student-run Cultural Food Fair in January. At the Cultural Food Fair, students are required to dig up their roots and learn about their heritage, and then create a dish revolving around their origins. The students then make the dish and bring it in for judging by the chefs and principals, as well as their peers.
“The Cultural Food Fair has been happening for about five years now. It was an idea I got from a Ferris class I was attending and was put in place to open up some dialogue between parents, students, and teachers of our program. I believed this would be a wonderful way to help bring personal pride back into our student’s lives,” says Chef Daryl Collins. “It closes the gap between the family generations by bringing to the forefront a lost personal awareness of their heritage and roots. I do believe it has served this purpose.”
And according to students, the Cultural Food Fair is quite the success. “My favorite part of the food fair was seeing the variety of food that people brought from all the different cultures,” says August Shenk, a senior at Central High School. “I love the pressure to be creative but do well at the same time. It pushes me to do my best.”
Andy Keith, a junior at Central High School, agrees. “In my opinion, the best part of the program is meeting new people and making new food. I loved getting to see what everyone made and learning about everyone’s heritage.”
To find out more information about the Culinary Arts Program and other interesting opportunities that the Traverse Bay Area Career Tech Center has to offer, visit tbaisd.org.