Story and photo by Steven Piper
Capable of catering events with as many as 900 people, as it will for an upcoming Boys and Girls Club banquet in November, Long Beach City College’s (LBCC) culinary arts students are available for hire.
Offering eight different courses, the students come prepared with training in managerial skills, nutrition, sanitation, food preparation and production, baking and pastry, catering, menu planning, purchasing, food and labor costing, and forecasting.
With training in the multiple disciplines, the culinary students have also provided their services for the Red Cross, Long Beach’s annual Juneteenth event and a Boy Scout Thanksgiving banquet, to name a few.
Romain Bertein, LBCC’s head of the Culinary Arts and Baking Department, explained the pricing of their services. He said the department charges its clients on a per-person basis; prices may vary depending on the menu and the price of ingredients. Customers may provide their own ingredients, or the department can purchase them.
The students come with experience too. Frank Madrigal, a professor and chef in the culinary department, explained how the students gain experience before catering the actual events by going straight from the classroom and into the kitchen, where they apply the lesson they learned in class. “This is a science,” Madrigal said. “It’s chemistry.”
While students were bringing over plates of food for his approval, Madrigal also said he is responsible for the production and organization of the catering events. He broke the process down into six steps: plan meal, receive food, store, prepare, service and break down.
Student Patty Pickett, who has received her certificate and associate’s of science in culinary arts, explained how the students are responsible for every aspect of food preparation. “The students learn how to prepare the food from scratch,” she said. “We cut and dice. We do everything.” The education LBCC offers has also led to various employment opportunities.
According to Bertein, students have been hired by restaurants such as the Ritz-Carlton, the Queen Mary’s Chelsea Restaurant and the Intercontinental in Los Angeles. “We do catering for specific parties in the community,” Bertein said.
Students also have the option to gain their work experience by preparing food for LBCC’s Viking Food Court. The kitchen for the food court is connected to the kitchen where the students cook after their lecture.
A copy of the catering contract to request the department’s services can be downloaded and printed from http://cula.lbcc.cc.ca.us/#.