Sophomores consider culinary careers | News

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OTTUMWA — Some students know what careers they want to pursue, and some of them have no idea, GEAR UP Coordinator Barb Hanson said Thursday.

Hanson provided for both types of students when she scheduled visits to local businesses for Ottumwa High School sophomores this week.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs is a $22.4 million grant through the U.S. Department of Education aimed at making sure Iowa students are prepared for college. “But before students can prepare for college, they need to know what they want to be,” Hanson said.

Hanson offered sophomores the chance to visit John Deere, Ottumwa Regional Hospital, Jefferson County Hospital, Bridge View Center, Indian Hills Community College Culinary Arts, KTVO and the Courier.

“I put out the list of opportunities,” Hanson said, and 50 students chose what jobs they wanted to see up close.

Sometimes students think they are interested in a vocation until they see what it’s really like. Other times job shadowing can expose them to careers they never thought of, Hanson said.

IHCC Culinary Arts Program Director Mark Fisher discussed IHCC’s culinary arts program with a group of OHS students Thursday afternoon and demonstrated several techniques in the pastry lab.

Fisher told students that cooking in a restaurant demands teamwork. “Everyone has to work together. You’ve got to know who is doing what,” he said.

“Baking is a little bit more of a science than cooking [is].” Ingredients have to be measured precisely so that they react as desired when mixed.

To prepare for a culinary career, students should learn basic math and weights and measures for cooking and baking, and writing skills for making menus and creating business plans, Fisher said.

A strong work ethic is important, as is professional dress and hygiene, Fisher said. Working in a kitchen can be messy, but a chef doesn’t want to customers to see him that way. “A lot of times we’ll switch out jackets” before we go talk to customers, he said.

Students must be dedicated to their studies and to their careers if they want to succeed, Fisher told the sophomores.

And they should be on time. A sign outside the door of the pastry lab reminds Fisher’s students, “Early is on time.”

Reporter Winona Whitaker can be contacted at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @courierwinona.

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