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Tyler Junior College’s new culinary arts program, which debuts in January 2019, will offer an associate degree and two certificates for students seeking careers in the food service industry.

Free informational sessions on the program will be held in Room T205 of the Pirtle Technology Building, located at 1110 South Mahon on the TJC main campus on the following dates:

• 10-11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20

• 10-11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 3

• 6-7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8

Admission is free, but registration is required since sessions are limited to 20 persons each. To register, contact Lauren Smith at lsmi4@tjc.edu or call 903-510-3024.

About the TJC Culinary Arts program

TJC’s Associate of Applied Science degree in culinary arts will prepare students for entry-level restaurant management positions.

TJC has contracted with Fitzpatrick Architects to design a state-of-the-art facility in George W. Pirtle Technology Center on the TJC main campus, complete with a commercial kitchen and dining area. Students will be able to develop their craft in a real restaurant setting.

Students will learn culinary and baking skills as well as management theories, practices and strategies. Much of their time will be spent working in a culinary arts lab learning traditional, current, American and international cooking techniques as well as inventory management and purchasing.

A basic culinary certificate will also be available for students to learn basic techniques in food safety, kitchen equipment and cooking. These courses will offer fundamental principles of knife- and food-handling as well as nutrition and menu management.

Students earning this certificate will be prepared for entry-level positions in various types of kitchens.

A pastry arts certificate will be available for individuals interested in the professional baking industry. Students will learn the fundamentals of baking and cake decorating as well as food safety.

Graduates will be prepared for entry-level positions in the baking/pastry industry.

About TJC program director Larry Matson

Larry Matson’s career in food service began when he was a teenager in League City, near Houston.

“I worked at Captain D’s fast-food restaurant for three years in high school and swore I would never work in food service again,” he laughed.

When he went off to college, his dad stipulated that he had to get a part-time job, so Matson found work at a restaurant and that’s when his interest grew.

“The culture of the restaurant was different,” he said. “People took pride in what they were doing and I decided that whatever I decided to do, I had better enjoy it because I was going to spend a lot of time doing it.”

After finding his affinity for cooking, Matson detoured from his college plans to be an engineer and signed up for the culinary arts program at San Jacinto College.

Some 28 years later, after working as a chef and director of culinary programs for the International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Dallas, Matson decided it was time to let go of the big-city pace.

He’s recently purchased land south of Tyler and is in the process of relocating from the Dallas area.

“Over the years, I’ve been wanting to do a little farming, so this gave me an opportunity to pursue that and to get back to the education that I started out in,” he said.

Matson credits the East Texas Restaurant Association for helping to create the TJC program.

“They had been trying for 10 years to get a program at TJC, and they were a driving force behind a lot of this,” he said. “And when (TJC Associate Vice Provost for Academic and Workforce Affairs) Dr. Bryan Renfro came on, he had some experience starting a culinary program in other schools, so he helped push it a little bit more.”

He added, “The Art Institute was a for-profit school that started out as a small program but grew to be one of the largest programs in the country. Coming to TJC gives me the opportunity to be at a community college where it’s not as expensive an investment for its students, and it allows me to get back to how I started my career.”

For more information on the program, go to TJC.edu/culinary.