http://fonts.googleapis.com/css?family=PT+Sans Culinary Arts program at Hinds CC Utica Campus trains for food careers
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Culinary Arts program at Hinds CC Utica Campus trains for food careers

The kitchen is a diverse, popular place these days, particularly in television and social media. But there’s plenty of room at the tables served in the economy.

Careers in food can lead students to several diverse lines of work, from restaurants to food management. In the case of Hinds Community College Utica Campus student James Chapman, it’s a way to keep his options as versatile and varied as his interests. Although he left the farm to attend college, farming is still close to his heart.

“My grandmother and mom both grew up cooking,” said Chapman, a first-year student from Carthage. “They grew crops and lived off the land, lots of greens, different vegetables and fresh food. Even with meat, they had pigs, cows and such.

“At first, I wanted to do weapons engineering for the military,” he said. “But I had talked to a recruiter for the military who told me how much they love cooking because they need an escape. I found out about the culinary program here, and I’m glad I joined it.”

Chapman was among a dozen students in instructor Durnitra Weeks’ class in the Culinary Arts program at the Utica Campus in the fall 2015 semester. The Utica Campus, formerly Utica Junior College, retains its HBCU (Historically Black College and University) status. The campus is home to 14 career-technical programs including Weeks’ class.

James Chapman, left foreground, and Durnitra Weeks, instructor in the Culinary Arts program at Hinds Community College's Utica Campus, stand in the kitchen with seven others enrolled in the program this past semester. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

First-year culinary student James Chapman, left foreground, and Durnitra Weeks, center foreground, instructor in the Culinary Arts program at Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus, stand in the kitchen with eight others enrolled in the program this past semester. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

“The Hinds Utica Campus Career-Technical Division is proud of the growth we’ve seen in the past year,” said Kenisha Shelton, dean of career-tech programs at the Utica Campus. “Our instructors have been working extremely hard this past year to recruit and retain students and to obtain certification for themselves to stay relevant and connected with industry. The Career and Technical division at Hinds Community College – Utica Campus is definitely turning vision into reality.”

Registration for spring 2016 is ongoing; classes begin on Jan. 11. For information about enrolling in the culinary arts program, go to the Hinds website at www.hindscc.edu or call Weeks at 601.885.7114.

“We start out covering the basics – how to boil water and the correct temperature in which to cook certain foods,” Weeks said. “Then, comes the sanitary part, which is cleaning the kitchen according to health standards. Later, we cover seasoning and flavoring techniques with meat and other things like that.”

Weeks, a Bolivar County native and former executive chef and dietary manager in the healthcare industry, herself chose a cooking career over healthcare since it was second nature from an early age.

“I’m from a family of four cooks,” she said. “So, the passion came from watching them and for the enjoyment on their faces.”

Students enrolled in culinary programs at all of Hinds’ locations also learn about the connection of the program to hospitality and tourism. The college’s Hospitality and Tourism Management Technology degree program includes culinary, hotel, travel and tourism concentrations.

Part of the Culinary Arts program at Hinds Community College's Utica Campus includes proper knife work with common food items, such as potatoes. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

Part of the Culinary Arts program at Hinds Community College’s Utica Campus includes instruction on proper knife work with common food items, such as potatoes. (April Garon/Hinds Community College)

“In the Culinary Arts program on the Utica Campus, students receive hands-on training by an experienced chef,” District Director of Enrollment Kathryn Cole said. “Skills are built from the ground up – from simple boiling techniques all the way to working with specialized equipment and ingredients.”

Chapman is keeping his career options open, but both are straight out of the kitchen.

“I have two paths right now. One of them leads to be a culinary specialist in the Navy, and another is finding an apprenticeship for a restaurant, catering or food safety. With that, I’d like to stay in Mississippi.”

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  • Danny Barrett

    Danny Barrett Jr. is a 17-year journalist with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communication from Nicholls State University in Thibodaux, La. Barrett covered county government and business at The Vicksburg Post for 10 years and came to Hinds Community College in 2015.

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