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Cutting-Edge Culinary Arts Complex Constructed at Duarte High School to House NAF Approved Culinary Academy

The transformation of Duarte High School’s Culinary Arts classroom into a professional-grade facility started this summer, is now complete. The culinary complex was created to house the school’s growing Food Service & Hospitality/Culinary Entrepreneurship Pathway, as Duarte Unified School District (DUSD) is soon to offer the only dual enrollment culinary school collaboration in the San Gabriel Valley.

DUSD Chief Facilities Officer, Brad Patterson, oversaw the design of the new culinary space in consultation with experts on the cusp of industry trends contained within the district’s Facilities Master Plan, which won a Leroy F. Greene Design & Planning Award in 2017.  Funded by Measure E, the culinary facility upgrade is also among the many modernization projects that support program designs defined in the district’s five-year Competitive Advantage Plan.

“We are building on the dreams of our students - quite literally,” stated Dr. Gordon Amerson, Superintendent of Schools.” At DUSD, we are strategically focused on establishing leaning opportunities that fulfill the passions of our students. We are achieving this in collaboration with experts in education and industry to offer students multiple pathways to attain their college and career aspirations. Construction of this premier facility to support students whose goals are to enter the culinary and hospitality arena is a prime example.”

Development of the Culinary Arts Academy began three years prior when DUSD joined a consortium of neighboring districts that was awarded the California Career Technical Education Incentive Grant (CTEIG) under the direction of Kevin Morris, DUSD Director of College, Career and Community. Established as a state education, economic, and workforce development initiative, with the goal of providing students with the knowledge and skills necessary to transition to employment and postsecondary education, the CTEIG grant provided the seed money for DHS to pay for professional development, certification and curriculum development.

A crucial criteria to receive the grant funding is to deliver a high quality curriculum and instruction aligned with the Career Technical Education (CTE) Model Curriculum Standards. This was achieved last May when Duarte High School earned certification by the National Academy Foundation (NAF) as an Academy for Culinary Entrepreneurship. To attain this esteemed status, CTE teachers Chef Jason Prince and Amy Bustos, designed the rigorous, career-themed curricula and direct pathway for students to enter the culinary industry.

Currently, DUSD and Mt. San Antonio College are engaged in articulation to add a dual enrollment element. This will provide students who finish the program with an opportunity to earn an Associate of Science Degree. Once completed, this will be the only dual enrollment offering of this kind in the San Gabriel Valley. Students who choose to take program courses without completing the degree program may still earn a variety of certifications needed for entry into careers in the hospitality industry.

The newly modernized structure has been built to house the program. It is comprised of three main areas replete with the highest quality, restaurant-grade equipment fit for the finest of chefs. A central classroom serves as the main instruction and food preparation area. To the south is a space for dry storage, locker rooms and restrooms. An observation room, as well as cold storage, has been added to the north, which also serves as a bistro area.

The main classroom is outfitted with a stainless steel instructor’s station fashioned as an island in the front, center of the room. It has a commercial-grade oven, range, char-broiler, sinks and food preparation area. Cameras and flat screen monitors were installed to project the teachers’ demonstration and instruction for students to view. Two large stainless steel student stations were also appointed with the same food service equipment as the instructor’s island.

The perimeter walls in the main classroom are stainless steel surrounding a space filled with everything a chef would expect including food prep areas, baker’s racks, warming carts, refrigerators, freezers, and a commercial dishwasher; plus six large stainless steel tables for student use to menu plan, prep and cook.

The retrofitted kitchen provides ample room for the students to hone their cooking skills, however, learning about food preparation is not the sole purpose of the Academy or the new facility. “Our goal is to weave the entrepreneurial concept with the culinary as part of the hospitality industry,” explained Bustos. “There are people in the industry who are working out-front in customer services, and others who work behind the scenes, preparing things. Our goal is to help students identify where they best fit into the business and give them the skills that will translate into a career.”

The expanded space gives students room to collaborate and develop the “soft skills,” that are also important in the industry and part of the program such as how to interview, how to build a resume, and how to apply for a position. “So many of our students come in thinking that Culinary Arts means cooking, and that’s the only reason to take these classes,” said Prince. “We show them there is so much more to the Academy than cooking.” The curriculum includes food safety and sanitation, the flow of food in the kitchen, and even the science aspect of culinary arts.

“I even tell my students about my nephew, who works for In-N-Out Burger as a welder,” Prince elaborated. “He’s never flipped a burger in his life, but has a great career going from store to store, repairing and welding the stainless steel fryers that are so essential in the kitchen. We also talk about other jobs, which might be photography of food, or using English skills as a food writer.”

As the hospitality industry is a fast-paced place, Prince and Bustos ensure they are delivering the most up to date tricks of the trade to their students by staying informed themselves through partnerships with industry insiders like the Duarte Chamber of Commerce and Mt. SAC professors. They also attended the NAF Next conference that took place July 11-14, 2018, in Washington D.C.

They were joined by DHS Principal, Luis Haro, and CTE Coordinator, Michelle Trail. They benefited not only from the workshops focused on delivering quality CTE, but had the chance to collaborate with their fellow Foothill CTE Consortium members from Monrovia, Azusa, and Charter Oak. It was through this group that DUSD was awarded the initial funds from the CTEIG grant to launch the Culinary Arts Academy which is now thriving in year three.

“Our goal is to offer our students rigorous and relevant curriculum and programs to best prepare our students for college and careers. I am excited about the expansion and modernization of our culinary arts classroom,” said Principal Haro.  “Our students will be exposed to the best equipment offering a greater experience and equipping them with the knowledge and skill set to succeed in this industry. In addition, we are fortunate to have a teacher who is extremely knowledgeable, passionate, and engaging in Chef Jason Prince. These factors, along with our continued collaboration with Mt. Sac and City of Hope are prepping all the right ingredients to be able to offer one of the best culinary arts programs in the region.”

As the Culinary Arts Academy continues to grow, the CTE Team at Duarte High School already has plans in the works to create additional Pathways for Video Film Production, Certified Nursing Aide Training and Welding that will also be NAF aligned and certified.

Duarte Unified will be celebrating the completion of the Culinary Arts Complex with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony to be held on January 24, 2019. The entire community is invited to attend to see this amazing space in person. RSVP to communications@duarteusd.org.

Culinary Arts Complex