Into the Fire: The Sizzling Passion of SCCC Culinary Students

By Kira Elmer

In the heart of Seattle’s diverse, Asian-fusion culinary scene, Seattle Central Community College trains enthusiastic aficionados of food and drink to become gourmets and foodie professionals. SCCC offers state-of-the-art equipment and kitchens to provide a thorough education in “learning from the ground up.”

The two courses offered through the Seattle Culinary Academy (SCA) at SCCC are Culinary Arts and Specialty Desserts and Bread. Students take a series of trade specific courses that range from one to eight credits.

As in any specialized field, the heat turns up as you advance through the quarters. In fifth quarter Advanced Culinary Practices, students have to end their salt and sugar obsession, and practice how to serve diet specific meals. One year, the students had to create a nutritious and delicious meal for a nonexistent anorexic vegan who only eats red foods that do not touch, according to Culinary Arts Professor Cynthia Wilson.

At the budget meeting in June at the Broadway Performance Center, the culinary programs were not added to the list of “Programs Requiring Additional Analysis”, like Apparel Design and Distance Learning, though they still exist at SCCC.

The SCA has newly renovated dining facilities made possible by many benefactors who donated their money to the program. Because of their generosity, the budget cuts have not affected the program whatsoever. Rather, both programs have expanded massively. Specialty Desserts and Breads has new chocolate and cheese production rooms, while Culinary Arts were given a state-of-the-art exhibition kitchen, among many other improvements. Throughout the main floor, you can drop by the SCA student-run bakery, The Buzz, or the restaurants, One World Dining and Square One Bistro.

Fifth quarter Culinary Arts student Hannah C., who works as a prep cook at Samurai Noodle, says that her current work isn’t so glamorous, but she loves what she is doing and the people she works with. A short promo video for SCA shows footage of students in the kitchen laughing, cooking and actively engaging with one another during instruction.

One graduate of the program in the video wearing an apron and tie says, “To want to come into the food service, you kind of have to love it, so going to school for it is just really doing something you enjoy.”

Another student from the video says that the emphasis on sustainability is totally unique. There is a rooted connection between the ingredients and the kitchen that SCA does not take for granted. The SCA believes that they are the first culinary school in the United States to offer a formal course in Sustainable Food Systems Practices. There is also a strong sense of communication in the kitchen between the students, who learn to work with others in an especially inspiring and innovative environment.

In Biology of Nutrition, a required course for food service graduates, the personalities in the room, especially that of Professor Cynthia Wilson, were lively, audacious, and ravenous for knowledge in art, science, history, and culture. Her philosophy of education is an Ethiopian Proverb: “He who conceals his ignorance cannot hope to learn.”

The students come from all walks of life and a variety of experience levels which make the relationships between the culinary instructors and the students more connected. More importantly, the program provides a tangible skill which can be used as a hobby or as a profession, and which tightens the already unique student-teacher relationships in the kitchen.

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