The senior culinary arts students at Simeon Career Academy came in third at the statewide cooking competition last year. As they work on the mouth-watering concoction they hope will place first this year, the dish itself is top secret but their future goals are not.
"I believe we have a good team to win first place this year," said Broderick Hawkins, who wants to own his own soulfood restaurant. "We're very competitive."
Anshante Hillery said she wants to be a baker, and Joshua Bethea said he hopes to be a concierge in a hotel.
"We have to use our brains and be creative about what we do," said Lovell Walker.
In a tough job market, advocates of culinary arts like chef Cliff Rome said these young people can serve up a rewarding career. Roem started off as a dishwasher and eventually mastered the art of fine cooking -- as well as the art of fast food. Rome, who owns his own restaurants and also runs a catering business, said that a lot of black youngsters have the wrong idea about the hospitality field.
"I'm a kid from Englewood, right? So for me, to be able to go to Europe, and go to the Caribbean, and on the private yachts, private jets -- it's unbelievable! Kids need to understand that that's possible," Rome said.
At Rome's newest venture, H-Dog on South King Drive, he used Dr. King's holiday to highlight culinary arts as an option for African American youth to realize their dreams of a creative, rewarding career that's always in demand.
While the rise of celebrity chefs is proving it's hot to be at the top of this field, the students in programs like Simeon's quickly learn they have to have a taste for hard work and complex disciplines.
"Culinary arts isn't just about cooking, it's also about nutrition, sanitation, you learn about things such as yield and portion control and things that you have to do in food service," said Anshante Hillery.
"It's really important that our students understand it's not just about business, it's not just being a doctor or a lawyer, you know, it's about what makes your heart happy," said culinary arts teacher Loretta Johnson.
And of course, there's the finished product to consider.
"The best part about it is eating!" Lovell Walker said.
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