SoCal program trains next generation of chefs, fosters other culinary careers

Phillip Palmer Image
Wednesday, October 4, 2023
SoCal program training next generation of culinary professionals
A culinary arts program in Ontario is teaching high school students how to take their passion and turn it into a career.

ONTARIO, Calif. (KABC) -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects 23% of new jobs created between 2021 and 2031 will be in leisure and hospitality.

Like many others, Pechanga Resort Casino is already looking for talent.

Executive Chef Andre Pinto has 130 openings right now, but where will those employees be found? The next generation of chefs and restaurateurs might come from schools like Ontario High School, where Arthur Barbosa leads the Culinary Arts Program.

"This is an opportunity for them to gain the basics and then they can hopefully pursue a career within culinary arts," Barbosa explained.

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Career Launchpad is a free 90-day program that helps high school students with disabilities successfully transition from school into the workforce.

In a class you might remember as home economics, the Culinary Arts Program at Ontario High School teaches kids how to take their passion and make it a career.

"It's practical application and we're going to take what they're learning in their academia and apply it to culinary arts or some of our other career pathways and show them how this is why you need this, this is why you need those basic skills to succeed after high school," said Larry Rook, principal of Ontario High School.

Senior Sebastian Jimenez is hoping for culinary school after graduating the current program.

"It makes me want to come to school. It makes me happy because it's something I like," he said.

The school built a modern kitchen in 2019 to provide students the opportunity to prepare meals and cater events. They can also get their food handler's certificates, a necessary credential for working at a restaurant.

For Angela Bates, the human resources director at Pechanga, classes like the Culinary Arts Program are attractive to her company.

"It's helpful because they bring some background that we don't necessarily have to teach, so we could use those types of candidates to come to Pechanga," Bates said.

And for Chef Pinto, a program like this can inspire young people early, sending them into the workforce with skills he can help build upon.

"A lot of people had a dream to be a chef and going to high school it's kind of like a plus for us as well to coach them and teach them and show the passion and bring it's a plus for us for sure," he said.

A class teaching more than how to make a pizza, it's hoping to fill the growing workforce within the Inland Empire's hospitality industry, which will exceed 180,000 jobs and $5.1 billion a year in wages, while helping students understand that a is career available doing what they love.

For future bakery owner Jaylen Chavoya, it's also about dreaming even bigger.

"I've always wanted to start my own bakery when I was older. It kind of helps you brainstorm, see bigger things, makes me open to more options in my career in the future," she said.