There once was an inside joke among culinary instructors that the Clark College Culinary Center was the best kept secret in Vancouver.
Well not anymore.
The Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute is the newest and well regarded culinary program in the area. The process of revamping the building and curriculum is designed to create phenomenal chefs. However, despite the thorough makeover, there is a lack of awareness about what the program offers perspective culinary students.
Cuisine Department Head Chef Aaron Guerra said his concern with the program is the lack of marketing and advertising.
Clark offers a roughly $13,000 associates degree in cuisine management, which is $3,000 less than the Northwest Culinary Institute’s certificate program, located just a mile away from Clark. Clark’s program is also less than half the cost of the Portland-based Oregon Culinary Institute’s degree program at over $30,000. Clark is the only culinary program in the Portland and Vancouver area that offers a meat cutting class where students learn to take apart whole quarters of beef, pork and lamb.
During Winter quarter, second year students completed the restaurant management project where they created a restaurant business plan. The project included designing the floor plan for the front and back of the house, menu design, food and labor costs, licencing costs, recipe development, demographics and other skills needed to manage a restaurant. The students are currently working on their capstone project where they are taking turns working with Chef Guerra and being sent on their externships.
Second year student Bri Apling used her capstone project to start two year process of her own restaurant after completing her externship at Glacier National Park’s Grand Lodge.
Arynn Sayer, a veteran in the kitchen, will be working at Renata, one of Portland’s top rated restaurants. Sayer says her biggest problem is finding time to get enough sleep while attending school and working eight-to-12 hour days.
After working as a police dispatcher for 11 years, Kim Myers traveled to New Mexico to work under Chef Scott Clapp for her externship at a food truck entrepreneur program.
Second year student Aaron Welton currently works at Fort Vancouver High School, catering banquets under Chef Finney. Welton plans to complete his externship at the school, hoping to teach in the future.
Some first year students in the culinary program are already being recognized for displaying leadership qualities that would make a great chef. These attributes include remaining positive while under pressure and pulling along others so they can succeed as a team.
For the past two years, the graduating students have shared countless amounts of food and experiences with each other.
“When these guys leave after graduating I will cry,” Guerra said. “You don’t just go to work every day for two years and not get attached to these guys.”
The first graduating class of the new McClaskey Culinary program is well prepared to prove their dreams have become a reality. As they enter the workforce as chefs, business owners and teachers, their success encourages new culinary students to follow in their footsteps through the McClaskey kitchen.