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Whether enhancing skills for an established career, desiring to learn more tricks of the trade or living out a lifelong dream, the student chefs who created the recipes for this year’s Our Ohio magazine have one thing in common — a love of good food carefully crafted.
Lorain County Community College Culinary Arts students Matthew Gregory, Brandon Woodall Sr., Garret Underwood and Megan Rataj were chosen by Chef Adam Schmith, program director, and Chef Bradley Ball, lead instructor, to take on the magazine’s recipe creation as a project in the fall semester.
Gregory of Avon Lake is in his second year in the program. He has a dream of owning his own food truck based on his cultural upbringing.
“My parents have been a huge influence in my life with their American and Chinese foods growing up,” he said. “Down the road I would love to open up my own food truck called East Meets West based on my parents, where I serve a play on the foods I grew up with.”
Woodall of Cleveland, in his first year, wants to become an expert in a craft where he’s already making his living. “When I graduate I can apply what I learned to my business and take it to the next level,” he said.
Dreams of opening a food truck or restaurant in his future began when Underwood of Bowling Green, who is in his second year, embraced the opportunities around him.
“I started (in the culinary arts program) to just learn the basics of cooking for preparation in life, but that changed the longer I was in the program,” he said. “I had friends, mentors, relationships and the longer I stayed, the more of a family we became. I started to learn, but I have gained more than just (culinary arts) knowledge.”
A first-year student, Rataj of Elyria isn’t sure what her future holds, but her experience is helping her “focus on the real world.” She has enjoyed the real world, hands-on experience of working with food she has chosen herself.
“Getting to plan and pull the food I got to use has been the best part.”
That experience offered at LCCC Culinary Arts comes from working directly with farmers in the area, which is a part of the program students said they enjoy the most.
“I love meeting the farmers, I have yet to meet a farmer that wasn’t kind, caring, generous and overall an amazing person,” Underwood said.
“Ohio farmers give so much away and they care about more than the money they get — they care about the people they are supplying their product to. They pay attention to quality and make sure their food is safe, which is awesome. Using farm fresh produce after meeting the farmer, harvesting the produce and cooking it is unparalleled.”
Gregory and Woodall agreed.
“My favorite part has been learning from farmers in the Cleveland area such as Coleman Farms, The Chef’s Garden, and Killbuck Valley Mushrooms because of the Farm to Fork class run by Chef Brad,” Gregory said.
Woodall, an experienced chef who owns VKC Private Chef Services, said his favorite experience was “getting his hands dirty” by growing and harvesting some of the vegetables he used.
“Getting educated on how to grow your own food and seeing how the process works is important to me because I plan on growing my own produce.”
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