OCC’s Cutting-Edge Culinary Arts Program Feeding Industry Demand Programs

May 24, 2019

The hospitality and culinary industries are booming in the region, and Orange Coast College is on the cutting edge, offering an array of programs for students to blaze their unique career paths. OCC’s hospitality programs include Food Science, Food Management, Hospitality and Tourism, and the competitive Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry programs, which expose students to real kitchen experience in the operating Captain’s Table restaurant.

Soon, Orange Coast’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality programs will break ground on a new three-story building, which will allow the department to provide high-tech instruction to more students.

“We’ve been in this building for over 30 years, so we’re very excited to move into state-of-the-art facilities,” says William Barber, Program Coordinator and Professor of Culinary Arts. “The new building is scheduled to open in Fall 2020. It’s going to be expanded in all areas, with all new kitchens, classrooms, and culinary labs.”

The new space will include 11 modern kitchens, with brand-new classrooms featuring both hot and cold labs. Highlights include new Miele Combi-Steam Ovens, operated by a screen pad that can be programmed to cook with steam and dry heat. It’s a welcome update for OCC students and faculty, currently making do with four ovens that have seen heavy use for nearly 30 years.

The new facility will enhance students’ ability to land dynamic careers through OCC’s American Culinary Federation Education Foundation-accredited certificate and degree programs. When students graduate, they are eligible for certification from the American Culinary Federation, opening doors to many career opportunities in the area. As graduates progress, and skills evolve, they can take their talents nearly anywhere.

“Las Vegas is a big draw,” says Barber. “And the whole West Coast is really happening right now in terms of culinary.

“There’s a big trend for internships overseas…the past couple of years, it’s been primarily European countries like Spain, France, and Italy, and students are always really jazzed when they get back.”

OCC’s Culinary offerings are flexible to meet students’ diverse needs, with classes available on a full- or part-time basis. Students in the two-year program have access to industry-experienced faculty, including executive chefs certified by the American Culinary Federation.

Graduates go on to a wide range of jobs, from entry-level prep to mid-level line cooks. Most of all, it’s the hands-on experience that gives students the skills they need to excel. According to instructor Ali Flecky, students get a feel for genuine kitchen energy, which prepares them for energetic careers in the industry.

“I get a lot of emails wanting OCC students,” says Flecky. “People see the difference in them and see that they were in that real environment. They’re more ready.”

For the past 25 years, OCC Culinary students have demonstrated their Future BUILT skills, competing and winning as “The OCC Pirates.” Among the Pirates’ accolades are nine regional championship titles and one national title in the American Culinary Federation’s Hot Food Team Competition.

In March 2018, the OCC Hot Food Team won the American Culinary Federation California Western Regional Championships, placing first overall to garner the gold medal. The mouth-watering winning menu included herb-crusted branzino; warm beet, ricotta, and leek-bacon savory pastry; and braised chicken thighs in yam duchess with tourné potato and glazed carrots. The predetermined dessert, “Oeufs à la Neige” ­– poached meringue in sauce anglaise – made victory even sweeter for the Orange Coast contingent.

Since 1979, the OCC Culinary program has been serving excellence, as its students can attest. Anabell Pica is one such culinary student, graduating this December as a pastry and baking chef. Pica aims to run her own bakery one day, and she’s grateful to the program for giving her the strong foundation she needs to succeed.

“We’re hands-on all the time. The only way you will learn about the culinary arts is being in the kitchen and practicing,” says Pica. “It’s a very complete program, and it’s very fun.

“I’d recommend this program 100 percent.”