A Recipe for New Career Success
Though changing careers is in vogue, spending lots of money and years doing it is certainly not. For those hoping to jump into the restaurant industry, look no further than the Park City Culinary Institute’s eight-week crash course in all things cooking.
Their unique curriculum boasts six award-winning chefs that serve as course instructors. Students are in the kitchen four days a week, seven hours a day, with hands-on learning the entire time. There are no tests–only a final meal to prepare–and even though an enormous binder of information is given, what students do with it is entirely up to them. During class, they are welcome to take notes or record as the chefs teach. A running discussion (that feels more like a genuine conversation than a lecture) accompanies every demonstration.
“The two-month program brings professionals and home cooking learners together,” said Laurie Moldawer, founder and director of the Park City Culinary Institute. “There are 18 year olds alongside people in their 30s and 40s looking for career changes. The diversity brings everyone to a higher level.”
The affordability and short, intensive nature of the program is what appealed to student Sarah DeLong, originally from Canada.
“This is just a jump start,” DeLong said. “Real mastery takes decades of practice. But this course is increasing my understanding of the value of food.”
This program hasn’t proven to be beneficial just to students; even the chefs are grateful for the innovative program.
“Being able to provide quality employees is a service to the community,” said Chef Greg Neville, one of the Institute’s instructors, and the chef behind the local Italian restaurant Lugano (which later became the modern American style restaurant Provisions).
Though the restaurant industry has an extremely low unemployment rate in Utah, most food establishments struggle to find qualified employees, especially as more two-year culinary programs are shutting down across the country as government funding has dried up. The eight-week course is designed to get students the skills they need to work in the food industry.
“Because we cater to the student, not the government, we offer this at an affordable cost,” Laurie said.
The Park City Culinary Institute was founded in 2013, and and is opening a Salt Lake location this fall. This will allow the Institute to offer certificate programs in Salt Lake City, while continuing to offer private and corporate catering events at their original Park City location throughout the year.
Laurie estimates about half the graduates go on to open their own businesses.
“I’ve been wanting to do this for years,” Michele Pika Nielson said of going to cooking school. “But I didn’t feel like going back to a college setting.”
Even though Michele has a masters degree, ran her own kitchen at a youth camp for more than a decade, and has published two cooking-related books, she said she still has plenty to learn in the kitchen.
“I appreciate the technical precision this course offers,” she said. “Now in my home cooking, I think about things differently.”
And, the program is malleable. Laurie meets one-on-one with students throughout the program, calls each one halfway through, and asks that they fill out a five page questionnaire with final feedback before they graduate.
“We use what they say to make improvements every time,” Laurie said.
The graduates seem to see no shortage of opportunities coming their way. After attending the program’s first class in the fall of 2014, Rachel Gilbert was hired as a chef at Fletcher’s, one of the hottest new restaurants on Main Street in Park City. Since then, she has received job offers almost weekly for different culinary positions to be a chef, caterer, host or teacher.
“If you love to cook,” Rachel said, “The Park City Culinary Institute will not only give you culinary expertise, but it will also set your career in motion.”