a closer look – valencia’s culinary management program

Ken Bourgoin's Culinary classMany dream of donning a white chef’s coat and for those in Central Florida, Valencia offers the only two-year degree-granting culinary program in Orlando. Valencia’s unique program is housed in the Walt Disney World Center for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. Opened in 2002, this 61,000 square-foot facility contains dual-purpose classrooms/banquet rooms, a high-tech demonstration kitchen with 20 fully equipped student workstations and a state-of-the-art production kitchen.

The program cultivates winners. Trina shared her love of competing in the story above, and she is part of a talented, award-winning team. The student culinary team won the gold medal representing Valencia and the state of Florida at the Culinary Regional Competition in 2011.

Program chair Chef Pierre Pilloud started his career at Valencia in 1996 as a curriculum writer for the then newly formed hospitality institute. In his time at Valencia, he has been acknowledged locally, recognized as a Top Chef in 2006 by the Central Florida Restaurant Forum magazine, and nationally, nominated for the American Culinary Federation National Culinary Educator of the Year in 2004.

Chef instructor Kenneth Bourgoin, 2010 Southeast Regional Chef Educator of the Year, took a few moments to share with us just what makes Valencia’s culinary management program so special. “We are not training these students how to be cooks, we are training them on how to be chefs that are great cooks. We teach what the industry demands, and believe it or not, the industry demands for you to be passionate about what you are doing and to have a positive attitude in everything you do in the kitchen. When you have that, you are apt to do better and promotions happen quicker. We will teach you how to learn for life!”

The culinary management track at Valencia will cost a student between $8,000 and $9,000. While this is a bargain, especially when compared to other local programs that can run in upwards of $40,000, cost is still a prohibitive factor for some of our current and would-be students.

The good news is that there are plenty of scholarship opportunities available through Valencia Foundation. Students need only fill out one application and they are reviewed for hundreds of potential scholarships. Scholarships like the Michael Jon Dreams and Passions Scholarship, started by Sandy Bove in honor of her brother, a graduate of Valencia’s culinary program. Other scholarships for culinary students include the Clara A. Walsh Scholarship. Ariana Costas is a recent recipient of the Clara A. Walsh Scholarship. She graduates in May 2013 and credits Valencia with helping her to master the necessary skills needed for the workforce. She chose culinary management because she loves to cook and believes cooking is one of her callings. If she could meet the person responsible for her scholarship, she would explain how important education and “my craft” are to her. “I am beyond grateful. I would even cook for them!”

Perhaps the best advertisement for a program at Valencia is its graduates. Through our wonderful alumni connections, we were thrilled to speak with Dawn Viola. Dawn received her certificate in culinary management in Spring 2011 and also has a bachelor’s degree in fine arts from UMass, Dartmouth. She is currently working on her master’s in holistic nutrition.

Dawn’s work has appeared in a variety of print and online publications such as FoodNetwork.com, BlogHer.com, Babble.com, SheKnows.com, Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, Dessert Professional magazine, The Orlando Sentinel and Edible Orlando magazine, and been published in several cook books. She has appeared on Food Network, Cooking with Emeril, Martha Stewart Radio and is a frequent guest chef on Fox News and The Daily Buzz.

Dawn is currently the executive chef and kitchen director at Second Harvest Food Bank. In order to better meet the needs of the community, Second Harvest built a 100,000 square-foot facility and within that building is the 2,000 square-foot commercial kitchen, the Darden Foundation Community Kitchen. Dawn oversees the prepared meal services program, in-house catering program and the culinary training program. The training program serves 20 students with rolling admission every eight weeks.

Dawn chose Valencia’s culinary program for cost and convenience. The program worked well with her schedule and allowed her to be a part-time student while working part-time. It was also the most affordable program in the area accredited by the American Culinary Federation.

“Valencia’s culinary program provided me with an outstanding foundation and support system that has allowed me to excel in my career.”

Be sure to follow Dawn on social media and enjoy her recipe for lavash crackers below.

On her blog: http://dawnviola.com/
On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/dawnviola
On Twitter: https://twitter.com/dawnviola

Dawn Viola’s lavash crackersDawn Viola - lavash2
(This recipe is adapted from Valencia’s Baking II Class with instructor Jason Stricker.)
Lavash is a Middle Eastern-style flatbread that is rolled thin and baked in clay ovens. The softness of the bread depends on how thin it’s rolled. In stores, you’ll see a thicker, softer version often used for sandwich wraps. My favorite way is rolling paper thin and baking until nutty and crisp. And with the simple ingredients, it’s an easy and quick dough to make and bake.

Yields: approximately 24 crackers
Prep time: 10 minutes + 32 minute rest
Cook time: 7 minutes
Allergy information: soy-free; contains wheat, gluten
Fancy equipment: standing mixer with dough hook, mister

Ingredients:
1 lb. all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 ounces olive oil
7 ounces warm water
coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper (optional)

Directions:
In the bowl of a standing mixer with dough hook attachment add water and oil. Add flour, salt and baking powder. Mix three minutes on medium speed until smooth; if mixture is dry, add 1/2 teaspoon of additional water at a time until a smooth ball forms. Remove dough from mixing bowl. Wrap dough in plastic wrap; refrigerate 30 minutes or until ready to bake.

Preheat oven to 325 F.  Remove dough from refrigerator; divide in half. Stretch each piece of dough over the back of a sheet pan; edges should be hanging off the sides. Let stand two minutes; trim edges flush with pan. Using a mister, lightly spray dough with water or oil; sprinkle desired toppings (coarse salt, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, fennel seeds, black pepper).

Place pan in oven. Bake seven minutes or until lavash is light golden brown and crisp. Remove pan from oven; let stand five minutes. Break lavash into small pieces. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store lavash in an air-tight container up to three days.

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