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Get a Job, Kid!

Local food and wine pros host career conference for high school culinary arts students

By Virginia B. Wood, Fri., May 10, 2013

Get a Job, Kid!

Culinary Arts Career Conference

Palmer Events Center, 900 Barton Springs Rd.,
Tuesday, May 14, 9am-5pm

Earlier this spring, a group of five junior and senior culinary arts students from John B. Connally High School in Pflugerville took second place in the Texas ProStart Invitational Cooking Competition, garnering $35,000 each in culinary scholarship funds. One of those same Connally students has already cooked at the James Beard Foundation House and participated in externships at a couple of Austin restaurants, while another has recognized her talents as a cake decorator, so they already have some insight into their culinary career possibilities after high school. But what about the approximately 1,250 other students enrolled in culinary arts programs in 170 Texas high schools? Do they have options beyond pizza delivery and manning a fryer basket? The culinary professionals of the Austin Food & Wine Alliance have developed a program to address this issue and fully intend to make it an annual event that attracts students from all over Central Texas to Austin for an interactive learning experience designed to reveal a whole range of career opportunities and the best ways to access them.

A group of Connally High culinary students showing off the 2012 Austin Food & Wine Alliance grant they received to complete their documentary <i>True Beef: Texas Beef From Pasture to Plate</i>
A group of Connally High culinary students showing off the 2012 Austin Food & Wine Alliance grant they received to complete their documentary True Beef: Texas Beef From Pasture to Plate
Photo by Mike Erickson

"This event is definitely part of our educational mission," explains Cathy Cochran-Lewis, Whole Foods Market global marketing coordinator and Alliance president. "We've had such overwhelming support from chefs, restaurateurs, artisan food producers, entrepreneurs, and food media who are committing their time to sharing information and encouraging students to consider the wide range of culinary careers actually available to them in our community." In addition to the participation of individual members of the local food community, the conference has attracted sponsorship support from companies such as US Foods, Sysco, Poached Jobs, Freeman Audio Visual, Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, and the Auguste Escoffier School of Culinary Arts.

The conference will offer a full day of panels and interactive exhibits, and will conclude with seven two-person teams competing in a mystery-basket cooking competition judged by culinary professionals. Panel discussions will cover everything from inside information on succeeding in the food truck business, food writing, how to go about landing a job, career opportunities specifically for women, and the challenges of entrepreneurship. "Fostering entrepreneurship is one of the best ways to contribute to a strong economy," explains Greenling founder and panelist Mason Arnold. "I'm excited to help the next generation of entrepreneurs discover the potential they have to contribute to the community." Culinary arts college programs from around Austin and the rest of the country will have exhibit booths, professionals from Poached Jobs will give résumé-improvement consultations, and talented pros will demonstrate knife skills, ice carving, and barista secrets. Inspiration will be everywhere.


The Culinary Arts Career Conference is free to high school culinary arts students, with lunch and snacks provided. For more details and a complete program, go to www.austinfoodwinealliance.org. Sign up by emailing info@austinfoodwinealliance.org.

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