Future world-class chefs train locally in Cape Coral
Walking into the classroom of the Commercial Foods & Culinary Arts program at Cape Coral Technical college, it doesn’t feel like a classroom at all. There are no desk or books, but rather a fully operational commercial kitchen with all of the professional stove tops, freezers, steamers and appliances you would see at a high-end restaurant or hotel. The students look every bit the part, dressed in professional chef’s attire, as they clean up from the midday meal. Part of the 1200 hour program (approximately one year) requires feeding the entire college each day. The students are involved in each step of the process, including ordering supplies, receiving orders, food prep and doing dishes at the end.
Heading up the entire operation is Chef Jack Elias, CEC, CCE, CFBE. He’s very humble and down to earth in our interview, but my glimpse of a wall full of awards over his shoulder quickly helps me realize I’m sitting in the presence of greatness. Chef Jack has been a nationally recognized and highly respected culinarian for more than 40 years. He has served as a culinary arts instructor since 1993 and has been at the Cape Coral Technical College since its inception. He’s also a member of many professional groups including the American Culinary Association.
Elias is originally from Sanibel and spent years in the hotel industry before becoming a certified culinary educator. As a boy, he started washing dishes at age 12 and was an executive chef by age 19. He credits his success to having extremely high standards and has always held his staff, and now his students, to this same level of quality. This is apparent by the amount of shiny, stainless steel and spotless floors I see in the classroom kitchen. Taking pride in cleanliness is ingrained in his students, and they leave with a Serve Safe Florida certificate upon graduating the course. The college also assists with careers after graduation and Chef Jack proudly states that they have over a 95% placement rate. For more information on the Commercial Foods & Culinary Arts program, visit www.capecoraltech.edu.