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Central Wyoming College: a leader in culinary education

Central Wyoming College: a leader in culinary education

JACKSON, Wyo. — Central Wyoming College’s culinary arts students learn from some of the best instructors in the business—and they aren’t necessarily college professors.

Program director Amy Madera said the Jackson-based program takes full advantage of the depth and diversity of the Jackson restaurant scene in attracting top chefs to teach the 20 students enrolled.

“We hire adjunct instructors who are the best in their fields,” Madera said. “It helps us stay well-balanced with the variety of classes we offer, as well as the variety of instructors”—meaning top-notch chefs from one of the best restaurant cities in the Rocky Mountain region.

Specifically, Madera noted a seafood chef from New England, a pastry chef from the Four Seasons Resort in Teton Village, a meat preparation class being taught by an executive chef of a private ranch, a French chef who teaches a course in “garde manger” covering cold-food preparation including hors d’oeuvres, pates and pressed meats and a certified wine instructor who manages a guest ranch and also teaches the program’s wine-appreciation course.

The A-list adjunct instructors have proved adaptable teaching partners in a higher-education docket that requires it, and are looking for a temporary commercial kitchen until we can build one of our own, CWC has utilized 20 different Jackson-area kitchens, since its inception in 2008.

Madera, CWC’s culinary arts program director since 2010, noted invaluable contributions to the coursework from Jason Mitchell, a private chef in the Jackson Hole area.

“He’s been with us since the beginning. Jason is able to teach any course in our program. He trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has a bachelor’s degree in hotel and restaurant management,” Madera said.

That hotel/restaurant expertise touches on the hospitality component of CWC’s training toward an Associate of Applied Science degree. Instruction in fields outside the kitchen includes human resources management, dining room management, beverage management, a safety and sanitation class taught by a public-health inspector and a health-based nutrition class helmed by a licensed nutritionist.

Central Wyoming College in Jackson offers a food and beverage planning and control course, tailored to the college’s new mobile teaching kitchen. Madera probably never imagined her work in culinary higher education would require her to learn to tow (and back up) a pull-behind rig the size of a deluxe horse trailer, now that it does, she’s determined to master the skill.

“It’s been interesting,” she said. “I’m practicing with the big F350 truck and a 33-foot trailer.”

Madera also is studying for her commercial driver’s license so she can haul the mobile kitchen unit around Wyoming as the college’s food-education program adapts and expands. Using the new equipment for catering is part of the real-world field instruction being implemented by CWC.

The mobile kitchen reflects necessary flexibility in the culinary/hospitality curriculum that Madera sees as a strength— and CWC’s successful placement of graduates in good industry positions proves its worth.

“I love our program,” Madera said. “Our students get exposed to different teaching philosophies, experiences, career paths and mentors. Our instructors often want to hire our students, if they aren’t already employed. Our graduates are extremely successful in the industry and enjoy mentoring our incoming students. We have space available for students who would like to register for culinary & hospitality management coursework, Sept. 26 to Nov. 26.”

With a mission to transform lives and strengthen communities through learning, leadership and connection, Central Wyoming College offers two bachelor’s degrees, 58 associate degrees and 10 certificates. The college includes a main campus in Riverton, an outreach center and the Alpine Science Institute in Lander, as well as outreach centers in Jackson and Dubois. Central Wyoming College is a designated Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution (NASNTI) and serves the largest American Indian student population in Wyoming.