Cooking programs impact students and staff

Senior Jessica Kelso puts the finishing touches on a dish from “Lions under the Lights.” “The students that come out of (the culinary program) get an absolutely amazing experience and are doing some pretty cool things with it,” said Director of University Residences Kevin Jacques.

There are two channels dedicated to cooking and over 300 cooking shows available on TV and streaming venues like Hulu and Netflix. Students and staff alike can gain inspiration from these types of shows.

Director of University Residences Kevin Jacques and his wife, Title IX Coordinator Tammy Jacques, have been competing in barbecue contests since 2005 and some consider them at the professional level.

He said he likes shows focusing on barbecue.

“We don’t have cable at our house,” he said. “So, we don’t really get the chance to watch (cooking shows) until things come on Hulu, Netflix or Amazon.”

Kevin Jacques said the culinary program is helpful.

“I’ve worked with (Director of the Culinary Arts Program Johnson Ogun) over there,” he said. “I actually took a class, I think, the first year it was started, and he’s allowed me to use the kitchen area over there for some stuff.”

The kitchens are impressive to his chef friends, he said.

Senior Daylan Pellum has always liked cooking, but he said he never intended on making it his career.

He said he intended to play college football and study engineering.

“As I was doing the prerequisites to get into the major course work, I figured out the hard way that that’s not really what I want to do,” he said.

Pellum said he enjoys watching Food Network and the Cooking Channel and watches his favorite show, “Chopped,” because of the creativity involved.

“It just shows me different ways a specific ingredient can be used,” he said.

One aspect of classwork he enjoys is bringing together foods and ingredients he may not normally eat or cook, he said.

Senior Jessica Kelso began her culinary arts journey while in high school, and she said she has “loved it ever since.”

She said she enjoys creativity and food styling.

Food styling is what viewers might see in a movie scene like the one in “The Hunger Games” where Peeta is throwing bread away, she said. It is when a person arranges the food for scene or photograph.

Kelso said her favorite chef is Gordon Ramsey.

Watching Ramsey’s shows, YouTube videos and shows of other chefs gives her ideas of how to use ingredients, she said.

Senior Travis Hughes is also a Gordon Ramsey fan.

His two favorite shows are “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives,” he said.

“(‘Diners, Drive-ins and Dives’) gives a more realistic look into the types of places that I think most Americans eat at every day,” he said. “Both shows serve as a source of inspiration to try new things at the table and in the kitchen.”

Hughes, who made the change from computer science to culinary arts, said he enjoys creating things that are “both visually stunning and delicious.”

Students graduating from the Culinary Arts department have many opportunities, Monteiro said.

“It depends on the direction they want to go,” Ogun said. “We give them the tools.”

Kevin Jacques said he thinks the program is a “hidden gem.”

“You get a bachelor’s, and you get a culinary program all at once for probably less money than what it would cost to go to culinary school,” he said. “The students that come out of it get an absolutely amazing experience and are doing some pretty cool things with it.”

Pellum said he is interning with Albany Bistro in Decatur and may work there after graduation, if they offer a position. Celebrity chef Jack White also showed interest in hiring him.

“We did an event with him, and he just liked the way I worked so he offered me a job as well,” he said.

Kelso said traveling to Los Angeles and experiencing a different atmosphere and food styles tops her list.

“When I went to Paris last May, their food was so amazing and exquisite,” she said. “I did not leave anything on that plate. Their culture and watching how they present their food was so amazing.”

Pellum said his mom, who was happy he changed majors, felt cooking was the job he was meant to do.

“I just really feel like that I’m at home in the kitchen,” he said. “It gives me the opportunity to really work with my hands, and I really take enjoyment in giving somebody something and seeing them genuinely smile from what I created. That’s one of the best feelings for me. Just knowing that I made this, and it gave somebody else a moment of joy (makes me happy).”