For Central Texas College culinary students, the program they’re in promises to pay dividends as soon they graduate and enter the real world of the food industry.

“I graduate in the spring,” said Quincy Green, a senior in the culinary program.

Green, who is a veteran, said he wants to open a food truck some day and will use the knowledge gained through the culinary arts program to pursue his goal.

“We not only focused on food preparations, but operating a full restaurant,” Green said. “We also learned the hospitality side of culinary arts.”

And that eduction doesn’t get any more real than the culinary program’s Patio Cafe, which offers fine dining to guests who attend — and pay — for the meal of the night at the CTC Student Center.

For the final Patio Dinner last semester, Green made Thai green chicken curry. His dish was one of many on the menu, which featured Asian cuisine.

The menu opened with pho and was followed by an appetizer, lumpia.

“We like coming here — the food is excellent and there is a variety to try,” said Antonio Carter, who enjoyed the dinner with his wife. “The lumpia is as close to authentic that I have ever had.”

Up next on the menu were the main dishes — bulgogi and Thai green chicken curry. Each entrée was served with a choice of two Asian side dishes followed by a desert of their choice.

“The goal for students is to be ready for the rigors of the real kitchen,” said Chef Keith Pascar, CTC culinary arts instructor. “You know, the cooking shows are the best and worst things because a lot of times the shows glamorize culinary arts.

“What the shows don’t show is the intense work that goes into preparing food.”

Pascar graduated from the CTC culinary program in 2008 and served as an executive chef in Austin before becoming a culinary arts instructor.

“Graduating from the culinary arts program helped pave the way for my career,” Pascar said. “I have found that it is very helpful on a resume.”

For Leisha Rivers, an Army veteran and sophomore, the culinary arts program has taught her many things.

“The program has taught me basic knife skills and basic food preparation as well as plate presentation,” Rivers said. “I did not enjoy cooking until this class. I try a new recipe every Sunday at home.”

Although Rivers joined the program to learn how to become a better cook at home, she may consider opening a food truck one day.

“The program has taught me a lot about costs,” Rivers said. “You want to make sure your overhead costs are covered. Overhead costs includes things I never thought of such as the cost of things like ketchup packets and napkins.”

Rivers and other students in the culinary arts program will reopen CTC’s Patio Cafe in mid-February.

The proceeds from patio dinners go back to the school and are used to help fund the culinary arts program.

“Having the dinners is realistic to the career path the students are taking,” Carter said. “We know from just talking with them that they learn a lot when they do this.”

For more information about CTC’s Patio Cafe or to make reservations, contact CTC’s hospitality department at 254-526-1515.

Reservations are required and only cash or a check is accepted.

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