CACC named to Hospitality Top 100 list


Manal Salim

Getting connected: Students enrolled in the Professions in Healthcare course at the Columbia Area Career Center attend clinicals at Lenoir Woods, a local senior center. Those enrolled in the class learn the skills needed to take care of a variety of possible cases they may be presented in the profession.
Students enrolled in the Professions in Healthcare course at the Columbia Area Career Center attend clinicals at Lenoir Woods, a local senior center. Photo by Maribeth Eiken.

For the fourth year running, Sullivan University named the Columbia Area Career Center to the Top 100 Hospitality list, which is an award recognizing outstanding programs throughout the country. Exceptional staff and facilities, Skills USA participation, community involvement as well as a site visit all go into the decision-making process, according to
The Hospitality 100 list is comprised of high schools and tech centers that excel in the areas of Culinary Arts, Baking & Pastry Arts and Hospitality Management. Those named to list are often winners from FCCLA, Pro Start and Skills USA competitions. The committee from Sullivan University also conducts research to establish schools with strong hospitality enrollment and influence in their community by visiting these schools, according to the university’s website.
Meeting all of this criteria, the committee selected the CACC to receive the honor of nomination to the prestigious list for yet another year. Culinary Arts instructor Brook Harlan believes the CACC’s participation in competitions assisted in their recent selection.
“One of the qualifications is how we place nationally through student organizations such as Skills USA, and winning titles for both culinary and baking last year, I know that kept us going on,” Harlan said. “It’s a great recognition just to show that we are working hard and that we have great students coming out of our program.”
And the students coming out of the Culinary Arts program aren’t exactly few in numbers. Harlan said that there are 175 students cooking with the CACC, and many plan to go on to culinary school or work in kitchens upon completion of the culinary program. To prepare these students for real-life culinary experiences, Harlan said instructors teach students more than the basics, but also how to operate a complete restaurant kitchen.
“We focus definitely on tasting food, but we want them to know how to function and work in a kitchen,” Harlan said. “The students’ duties include cleaning, recycling, compost, laundry, in addition to learning cooking and baking skills.”
In order to be named to Sullivan University’s Top 100 list, schools must display exceptional hospitality that sets the school’s program apart from other organizations, said Candice Childress, who is the director of accreditation of the American Culinary Federation. Childress, an alumna of Sullivan University, believes the school holds ideals of quality in selecting schools to its hospitality list.
“I think quality is what Sullivan really stands for. Sullivan University has a really high sense of quality and a high sense of care,” Childress said. “When I think of Sullivan, I think of pride, respect, cleanliness. They set a standard of that. Even in the selection of schools to their hospitality list.”
Senior Chormaic Sullivan has been involved with the Culinary Arts program for the last three years, and this year is enrolled in a Culinary Independent Study course as well as the Baking and Pastry course at the CACC. Sullivan believes that Sullivan University chose the CACC as one of the best hospitality schools in the nation because of the dedication displayed by both students and instructors of the program.
“I believe that the Career Center was selected as one of the top 100 programs because of how we have placed in competitions, both at the state level and at nationals. Our Culinary Arts program has multiple qualities that make it one of the best,” Sullivan said. “I believe the foremost are the culinary instructors, since each one is highly knowledgeable, passionate, and they all have great work ethics. To have them as examples of what it means to be both as an adult and a chef is really the foundation of our culinary program.”
Because of his experiences in the nationally recognized CACC culinary program, Sullivan feels as though he has obtained life-long lessons and experiences that will assist him in his future. Sullivan said it has been a long-time ambition of his to pursue a career in the culinary field, and the courses he participated in during his high school years will help him to obtain his goal.
“I decided to join culinary because during my freshman year, when I was touring the Career Center, the class really caught my attention,” Sullivan said. “I had also worked in a small restaurant back in my hometown of Portland, Ore. before I moved out here, and I saw the class as a way to get deeper into something that I really loved as a child.”
Unlike Sullivan, Harlan explained that not all students in his CACC classes may wish to continue on in Culinary Arts. However, Harlan said the lessons and advice obtained from the CACC Culinary Arts classes bestow students with skills that are useful across the board, regardless of the careers they wish to pursue.
“Working in an industry like culinary arts and food service,” Harlan said, “you get really efficient and you learn how to be organized and I think that can help you with any area.”
Because of the involvement and practice the culinary program and its instructors provide its students, Sullivan believes the CACC is more than deserving of its recent nomination. In addition, Sullivan believes the recognition and reputation of the CACC will assist him in his near future.
“I feel like the Career Center’s nomination to the top 100 hospitality schools list is a powerful recognition, and I believe that it is because of the amazing instructors that we were awarded with this honor,” Sullivan said. “In terms of my own future, the Career Center’s award winning Culinary Arts program gives me a head start compared to others who don’t have access to this program, and I know that my experiences I’ve had in this class will serve me well in my future.”
By Manal Salim