MCCTC culinary program in "elite" company - WFMJ.com News weather sports for Youngstown-Warren Ohio

MCCTC culinary program in "elite" company

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CANFIELD, Ohio -

For the third year in a row, the culinary program at the Mahoning County Career and Technical Center earned a spot on Sullivan University's "Elite 50" list.

Ten years ago Matt Putzier took a chance, leaving the restaurant business to teach the restaurant business at MCCTC.

"It's just kind of cool because it's the same turnover of a product. In the kitchen you're turning over food, customers and all the other stuff. Here, you're doing the same thing with students," said Putzier, a culinary instructor at MCCTC.

For the last three years, those students have set the bar pretty high, earning the program a spot on Sullivan University's "Elite 50" list as one of the top programs in the country.

"We really try to get the kids hands-on, real-world experience," said instructor Christl DeNiro. "It's not like a simulated work-place or anything like that. We try to get them into the food service industry in all aspects, all areas as quickly as possible when they come here."

Exposing them to different kinds of cuisine is just the beginning.

"Most of them, they eat at Taco Bell. That's their exposure to food," said DeNiro.

"At first I was really into BBQ. Now that I've been out here I'm getting more into the higher-end things," said senior Melissa Ramirez.

Very different experiences inside the same program, too. On one side, you're preparing food for literally hundreds of people.

"In the cafeteria, they get to do large volume cooking and serve an industrial sort of setting," said DeNiro.

You walk out through the kitchen and it's literally a restaurant, serving lunch service just like any other restaurant in the area.

"For half of your school year, you're working in a restaurant. You're doing the same thing that's happening down the street in the middle of Canfield with the restaurants, and Boardman and everything like that," said Putzier.

"It's awesome because I get to practice being in a real restaurant, but I'm still learning at the same time," said senior Erica Shirilla.

"You got to be able to kind of think on your feet. All those critical thinking skills that you have to do in the industry all the time, that's happening right here. We couldn't do it without the live customers," said Putzier.

"I love that when I'm serving and I'm out there, customers will tell me 'Oh my gosh it was so good. I can't believe you are all students'," said Ramirez.

Students that could very well be running their own restaurant in the not-so-distant future.

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