The continued rebound in the hospitality industry — the largest single sector of the Nevada economy — is boosting demand for culinary professionals.
The newly accredited Culinary and Hospitality Academy operated by the Washoe County School District is working to fill that pipeline.
Instructor Fred Wright, who’s also president of the High Sierra Chefs Association, runs a tight ship as he oversees students in the program’s $6.5 million kitchen on Edison Way in east Reno.
A student stops by Wright’s office, returning a cookbook. Wright insists that the student return the cookbook precisely where he found it on a shelf. And he tells the student to get dressed properly for baking before he takes another step into the kitchen.
“Do you really want this?” Wright asks his students. “It’s a lot of work. If you want a profession, then you come here.”
The program recently became the first school in Nevada — and only one of 12 in the Western United States — to win accreditation from the American Culinary Federation.
The 245 members of the High Sierra Chefs Association, the local chapter of the American Culinary Federation, helped spearhead the accreditation effort.
The 500-page application for accreditation included detail on subjects ranging from instructors’ professional backgrounds to lesson plans.
Three companies with close ties to the region’s restaurant business — French Gourmet, Bonanza Produce and US Foods – helped pay for the accreditation project.
About 250 students are enrolled in culinary classes. Half are interested in culinary careers. Others come from programs such as the school district’s Health Sciences Academy that require some knowledge of culinary practices.
They learn culinary skills in a top-of-the-line kitchen that includes a dozen cook stations, pizza ovens, a wok for Asian cuisine — even a point-of-sale system for the dining room facility and coffee shop that the culinary students staff.
The culinary program has posted a graduation rate of 98 percent, says Dana Wright, director of Signature Academies and career and technical education for the Washoe County School District.
Some students are finding jobs in Reno-area restaurants before graduation, but Wright says many graduates are seeking further training at institutions such as Johnson & Wales University and the culinary program at Truckee Meadows Community College.