Grayson Tech celebrates pursuit of industry certification

LOGANVILLE - Culinary arts students from the Grayson Technical Education Program and Rockdale Career Academy celebrated the schools' pursuit of national accreditation by preparing a three-course meal and, later, participating in a timed competition.

The two schools are the first in Georgia to pursue industry certification from the American Culinary Federation. The process will take about a year and includes a review of the curriculum and facilities, as well as a visit from ACF officials.

"By obtaining industry certification, students will graduate completing the highest level of standards obtainable in secondary education," said Chef David Ross, the state Department of Education culinary arts coordinator. "It means they will be ready to enter the culinary arts field anywhere in the nation."

Kristie Martin, the assistant principal for technical education at Grayson, said the certification will validate what the students do each day in the program.

"It speaks volumes for what the kids learn," she said.

Chef Jennifer Hill-Booker, the director of the culinary arts program at Grayson Tech, said accreditation will offer an advantage to the students. For years, people who worked in the culinary arts were considered to be blue-collar workers, but Booker said that image is changing.

"We are technicians, we are artists, and we are skilled professionals," she said.

On Friday, the students showed off their skills by making a prawn and pineapple appetizer, callaloo soup, cream of scallion soup, curried salmon soup and roasted chicken breast stuffed with crab meat.

After lunch, eight students - four from Grayson and four from Rockdale - participated in an "Iron Chef"-style competition. The students had an hour to create a plate consisting of a protein, two vegetables and a starch, but they didn't find out until the beginning of the competition what ingredients would be available.

Mauricio Salmeron, a junior at Parkview High who takes culinary arts at Grayson Tech, said it's exciting that the school is pursuing industry accreditation.

"It makes it look very good that this school is up for something that high," he said.