June 10, 2014
Cooking is a lifelong skill

A Texas culinary arts school might be the next step for a number of high school students that are already learning the craft. Whereas traditionally students are exposed to cooking in classes like Home Economics or cafeteria aid programs, forcing them to learn a bland introduction to cooking, now students are fully immersed in classes that teach them advanced culinary methods and help prepare them for potential careers in food.

Recently, over 500 students from Texas gathered in Austin for the 2014 Culinary Arts Career Conference, a professional conference run by the Austin Food and Wine Alliance, a non-profit organization focused on the region’s culinary arts, that exposes students to the food industry. The conference included a several keynote addresses, cooking competitions, chef panels and information on food trucks. These students were previously exposed to culinary arts programs provided through their high schools, but attended the conference to learn more about the professional applications of culinary expertise and the restaurant industry in general.

Why teach culinary arts in high school
The restaurant industry continues to see growth as foodie culture continues to prosper. Growing focus on the farm-to-table movement has restaurateurs, farmers and consumers reevaluating the way we view our food. For students interested in diving into the nitty-gritty details of cooking, this conference showed them how the skills they already acquired are directly transferable to culinary school, and from there a full-time career. Many students consider  culinary school as an alternative to a traditional four-year college degree program. More importantly, a some students that attended this conference expressed interest in eventually opening their own businesses, and whether it be a boutique bakery, minimalist tapas joint or expansive micro-brewery, learning the tricks of the trade is crucial to standing out in a crowded market.

The Culinary Arts Career Conference is one of several events hosted by the Austin Food and Wine Alliance throughout the year and the only one as of now that is aimed at high schoolers. The alliance hopes to foster interest in young people by providing grants and funding projects related to the food industry.

Culinary arts programs go well beyond Austin
Though not every community has access to local conferences and organizations, involving high school students in the culinary arts has become a national focus. Schools across the United States are finding ways to incorporate job-transferable skills into their curriculum, of which the culinary arts is a strong option.