Good food is splendid to eat, but it also can be the stuff of great careers, the kinds of careers highlighted in American Experiment’s ongoing project, Great Jobs Without a Four-Year Degree.  But in thinking about the role food has played (or hasn’t played) in the project over the last few years, I’m struck that I haven’t focused on it as much as we could have or should have.

Quick course corrections.

Let’s start Friday nights with the Food Network and half-hour, after half-hour, after half-hour of “Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives.”  Host Guy Fieri may not be everyone’s favorite cup for bringing workweeks to sedate ends, but I resonate to the show as it’s the most appealing—tasteful, if you will—gala of multiculturalism on television, featuring cuisines from all over the world, plated with hardly any PC at all.  Think “organic,” not “in your face” celebrations of “diversity.”

I’m currently doing research about a major food management company and impressing me is the passion everyone I’ve been interviewing has for food.  Not simply respect and appreciation for good food, but excitement for the excellent and nutritious meals they create and serve every day, especially to school kids. Wouldn’t it be super, I’ve been thinking, if more people trying to figure out what to do in life pursued careers in the food industry, especially if they see themselves possibly viewing and feeling about food in ways similar to how the men and women I’ve been learning from do?  Yes, it certainly would.

A Minnesota academic friend of mine talks about how he was taken back a number of years ago, which is to say displeased and disappointed, when his son announced immediately after finishing his freshman year at a four-year college that he wouldn’t be returning as a sophomore because, “You know, Dad, I’ve always wanted to cook.”  According to his father, “To make a long story short, he lived with us for a year and went to the local technical college.  He earned a one-year culinary certificate and has been cooking ever since and is hoping to own his own restaurant.”  Good story, encouraging ending.

On the chance you or perhaps your parents are intrigued, here’s a sampling of four food-related certificate programs at other Minnesota State institutions.

St. Cloud Technical & Community College.  This certificate program (there’s also an A.A.S. track) “experiments” with current trends and new food innovations.  Students learn every aspect of the culinary world, from safety and sanitation, to stocks, sauces, soups, starches, and baking, to steaks, poultry, and seafood.  Students also spend time learning food presentation and food art.

Saint Paul College.  The Culinary Foundations Certificate program is designed to prepare graduates for positions in casual dining, cafeterias, healthcare institutions, commercial institutions and more.  Graduates will have completed training in cooking, baking, and pastry fundamentals, learning techniques in the production of various hot and cold foods as well as butchery.

Normandale Community College.  Food and Beverage Management.  This is a certificate program that prepares individuals to plan, manage, and market restaurants and food services in hospitality establishments, food chains, franchise networks, and restaurant supply operations.

Dakota County Technical College.  “Sustainable Food Systems” is a certificate program that offers a practical, hands-on learning experience in the rapidly growing fields of small-scale local/urban agriculture.  This program is geared towards individuals with interests in growing healthy and nutritious food based on organic and sustainable methods.

In writing Education Roads Less Traveled: Solving America’s Fixation on Four-Year Degrees, which came out last April, I came across a stupendously over-the-top article, “Cooking Can Elevate the Soul to Great Heights,” in The Times of India (don’t ask how I found it).  For those at least considering a career in food, you may want to chew over two of Rudroneel Ghosh’s more inspiring sentences.

A “chef’s creative canvas knows no bounds.  He has the means to play with the senses, serenade them and often, lead them gently to a higher plane.”  And then, “Cooking is perhaps the highest form of meditation, a divine ritual that is key to nourishing the souls and balancing the cosmic forces of yin and yang.”

Gosh golly, Ghosh.


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