Although it has been known by a number of different names through the years, Indian Hills Community College continues to offer an academic program that provides students with the fundamentals to prepare them for jobs in a variety of food service areas.
What is now called Culinary Arts was once a Commercial Cooking program on the former Iowa Tech campus in the 1960s. Its curriculum included classes with names like Kitchen Sanitation and Safety, Mathematics for Cooks and Pantry Skills. These days students take courses in Culinary Nutrition, Fine Dining Experience and International Cuisine.
“Our program has a lot to offer,” says Mark Fisher, the Culinary Arts program director at IHCC. “We are not a large program, but what we do, we do quite well. We are focused on giving our students the education they need to be as successful as they can, no matter what job they get after graduation.”
Graduates are working in restaurants, event centers, company-run bakeries, country clubs and other areas where they are putting the skills they learned at IHCC to good use.
Fisher emphasizes one of the strengths of the program is the amount of one-on-one instruction in the labs, which he says creates a better learning and teaching environment for the instructor and the student.
Indian Hills committed to a sizeable investment in a complete renovation of the former culinary arts space. As a result, Fisher says the large, open labs with modern, state-of-the-art equipment allow students to be trained in areas that are similar to what they will be working in after they graduate. Two-thirds of every day is spent in a lab setting.
For a number of years Indian Hills has hosted Iron Chef competitions that bring high school students to the IHCC campus. “It gives those students the opportunity to be creative and realize this might be a profession they may want to go into,” Fisher says. “It also gives us a chance to show off our facilities and program. It’s been a great recruiting tool for us with schools from inside and outside our region taking part in the competition.”
The instructors in the culinary arts program have all been with the college for a number of years, coming to Indian Hills from a variety of backgrounds in the industry. They bring a diverse set of ideas to the program, which is certified by the American Culinary Federation.
“We work hard to find internships for our students,” Fisher says, “and quite a few of our students have had their careers begin through their experience in those internships. We have graduates who have stayed in their hometowns and are doing quite well, and others who have taken that big step and moved to a different part of the country and seen their career take off very fast.”
Questions about the Culinary Arts program can be directed to Mark.Fisher@indianhills.edu.