This summer I attended Central Carolina Community College’s Natural Chef certification program in Pittsboro, NC. For a while I’ve been wanting to attend culinary school to gain a deeper knowledge and experience in cooking. But I knew that I didn’t really want to spend an entire two years going to culinary school to get an associates degree.
When I found out that I could become not only a certified Chef, but a certified Natural Chef in just one summer I knew that this was an amazing opportunity for me and my career. The program offered by CCCC is a certificate program, that is one of just three in the country. Also, it is available at a super affordable price.
I began the program the week after my college classes ended, and completed the program the week before I moved into my apartment; so I definitely dedicated my summer to cooking.
The first week we were introduced to the kitchen, and the cafe that we would be running for the summer. We also learned proper etiquette when waiting tables, and working as a hostess. Once the second week came around we began planning menus and cooking/serving in the Natural Chef Cafe. Every week we had different daily themes that determined the meal we would prepare. Some examples were gluten-free day, vegan day, baking day, raw food day, local foods day, the list goes on and on.
Along with running the cafe, we also learned how to work in the kitchen. Working line, doing prep work, washing dishes, preserving food, etc. Throughout the program, we learned how to cook a variety of many different foods, from de-boning locally raised chickens to making quinoa salads to homemade dehydrated kale chips. We also got several opportunities to interact with the public by helping with catering events and even did a few days demonstrating simple cooking skills/recipes to the public.
We spent the last week of the program focusing on a few specific topics such as fermentation and baking which I found really interesting. Another really cool thing about CCCC’s program is that there is a fully functioning organic farm on campus that we were able to tour, and cook the produce from. By having the farm close by and getting it’s produce, it helped us learn how to cook in-season, local dishes which was a great experience. We were also able to tour a few local farms that provided a lot of the products that we cooked with.
There were fourteen people in the class, and everyone was taking the course for different reasons, which made it a great mix of skill levels and life experiences. The program helped me to network, and learn different things from other people that enjoyed food like I do. By the end of the summer my views as well as knowledge on food and cooking was widened and I felt more familiar in the kitchen as well with working with people.
I would definitely recommend this program to anyone that wants to not only gain knowledge on cooking, but also on healthy eating and using food as medicine. All of the information about the program is on the CCCC website (http://www.cccc.edu/naturalchef/ ) so definitely check it out if you’re interested!