If you’re looking for a good meal (or a place to learn how to cook one professionally), you’ve come to the right school according to an online college-ranking website.
Best Choice Schools voted NIC’s culinary program as the best in Idaho in their 2016-2017 ranking. There were five schools total on the list.
NIC’s program provides hands-on training through Emery’s restaurant, which is run by current culinary students.
In addition, students stock and staff the deli located outside of Emery’s on the second floor of Hedlund building. The deli offers everything from espresso drinks, coffee and various fresh pastries to a revolving assortment of lunch items like quiche and Caesar salad. Students run the restaurant, the bakeshop and work the line under the direction of Hillary Faeta-Ginepra and Jeff Jenkins.
“The coolest thing about this program I think is the deli because it’s a completely different customer and pace than the restaurant and tries to accommodate two different types of customers,” Faeta-Ginepra said.
Jenkins has over 40 years of experience in the food industry managing restaurants and working with customers. He helps students with the business side of the food industry and has currently been instructing at the college for eight years.
Faeta-Ginepra has over 20 years’ experience in the industry. She is new to the college since she came on as a culinary instructor beginning in August of last year. She has worked in every aspect of the kitchen and all over the country.
Faeta-Ginepra said that there is so much to learn in the hospitality industry and that she is still learning the cooking trends that are constantly changing with the times. She said some people don’t realize culinary arts has such a academic component to it.
The culinary program covers different elements of cooking that are broken up in increments so each facet of culinary arts is covered in its entirety during the nine-month program. The college offers job placement and internships for students as well. Most students try to keep their internship until the last semester so they learned the necessary skills to thrive in a professional environment. Students usually complete about 90 hours of work in an internship.
Eighty percent of the students get job placement and are working in hospitality while finishing the program to builds their skills. The internships help with job shadowing and learning different jobs in the kitchen that students have never done before, which helps these future chefs get their foot in the door.
The program stresses well-rounded training so each student gets experience in the kitchen as well as at the front of the house working with customers and learning wine pairings with food. This helps students obtain different sets of skills and helps them determine which direction they want to go at the end of their education on campus.
Most program graduates get into entry-level jobs, but with their skills they learn at NIC, they will be able to progress up the ladder very quickly because they have mastered the basics in hospitality. The program sets the foundation of knowledge for them to build on.
Currently, NIC is working on building an associats-degree program for the future. But as of right now, it is solely a certificate program.
The students cover food science in depth, work all stations in the kitchen and get to perform in front of a live audience in the Emery’s dining room, which offers guests an economically priced three-course meal that includes soup, entrée and dessert.
Culinary arts students work Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., though Mondays are reserved for lectures and book work. The restaurant and deli are open Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and only accept cash or check.
The menu for Emery’s and the deli change weekly, challenging the students to work on new menu items constantly and learn how to cook everything from International cuisine to fresh fish.
“The halibut was fresh and broken down this morning,” said Kris Cope, who is the chef’s assistant and was a former graduate of the program. He has worked at NIC as a kitchen assistant for 11 years. The students get to learn his methods of work since he has worked in various hotels.
Emery’s and the deli operate separately from the Dining Services in the Student Union Building and gets its food from different vendors. Emery’s dining room is open to all people in the community and not just students. They have many people from local businesses who come in for lunch every week.
Usually there are 18-20 students at a time participating in the culinary program; currently there are twelve.