• October 22, 2019

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Posted: Sunday, September 1, 2019 1:15 pm

The sounds of carrots being chopped and boiling water echo throughout the room, as does the voice of Odessa College Culinary Arts instructor Lawrence Watson reminding students to watch their fingers.

About a dozen OC students are spending their first day in the kitchen this semester with their knife kits and Watson stresses the new cooks focus on technique. The students are scattered around the space in the Culinary Arts building and are just beginning their culinary journey.

Watson said a lot of growth will take place in the short time that the introductory class meets.

The course lasts eight weeks and convenes twice a week for four hours at a time.

“It’s all been theory up to this point and today is the first day they’re actually getting their knives,” Watson said.

Learning to identify products and equipment was step one and now students are moving on to mastering knife cuts. By the end of the eight weeks, students will have experience making soups, stocks and mother sauces.

In classic French cooking, there are five mother sauces that are the building blocks for all other sauces: béchamel, velouté, espagnole, Hollandaise, and tomato.

Knowing these basics helps aspiring chefs explore more culinary options.

For now, students carefully dice and julienne carrots to the size of matchsticks as Watson monitors.

Freshman Anabel Machuca worked her way through vegetables at her station, but was corrected by Watson after making one cut through a potato.

The instructor explained that once the potato is cut in half, the student would minimize her ability to achieve the assigned cut.

Mistakes are common in kitchen among all students new to OC’s Culinary Arts program.

Machuca said she is coming into the class with only the skills she learned at home.

“I come from a family of 10 and I’m the third eldest, so I had to help my mom cook a lot,” she said. “I came here to enhance my skills. I do have a lot of questions and I just need a little bit of guidance.”

She said she envisions a future where she is a head chef.

Sophomore Michael Vazquez has some experience cooking in a professional setting. He currently works at the Midland Beer Garden and regularly preps menu items like fries and brisket.

“I always thought being in the kitchen was fun and I figured it’s one of the jobs that could give me the opportunity to travel and get more experience learning about different cultures, too,” he said. “I want to learn from different cultures, mix it up and make it my own.”

Watson said there are numerous ways to turn a culinary degree into a career.

He said catering, food blogging, food styling and banquet management are just a few of those options.

The OC instructor mentioned opportunities continue to increase locally like with the Odessa Marriott Hotel and Convention Center, which requires culinary professionals like executive sous chefs and banquet servers.

“There are so many facets of this industry. You have no idea until you get out there,” Watson said.

Odessa, TX

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