High school culinary students look to new CBC facility

KENNEWICK, Wash. (KVEW-TV) -- Richland High School junior Maddie Iozzia starts her day in the kitchen.

“So we’ll need three pounds, right?” she says, taking out a block of butter. “[It’s for] brown sugar streusel, which is like a crumble for pie.”

Iozzia moved to the Tri-Cities from Buffalo, New York in August, quickly finding her niche. She attends the morning culinary session at Tri-Tech Skills Center in Kennewick.

“It comes with a lot of stress,” Iozzia says, referring to deadlines and pressure to make the perfect dish. “But in the end it's all worth it.”

Iozzia first learned to cook, baking alongside her grandmother.

“She always let me lick the spoon,” laughs Iozzia. “Which is always good.”

High school graduation is still a ways off, but Iozzia is already looking ahead to college and culinary school.

One school that is still in the planning process is already the talk of the Tri-Tech class.

“Yeah, we all sent each other a picture of it!” Iozzia laughs with her fellow chefs-in-training.

They are excited for Columbia Basin College’s proposed culinary school. The college is now in the four-year process to fundraise $10 million to build a facility next to Duffy’s Pond in Kennewick.

The space near the Cable Bridge will live next to the Port of Kennewick’s Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village.

“The availability to increase our culinary pallet is enormous,” says Tri-Tech instructor Chef LuAnne Wiles. “We need that education in order for food culture to grow and change.”

Wiles owned her own catering and private chef business in Seattle before moving to the Tri-Cities in 2012. She knew ultimately, she wanted to help teach the chefs of tomorrow.

“We watch somebody shy and quiet and has never had a job,” describes Wiles. “Come in and at the end of their second year, be winning competitions and going out and working at the best restaurants.”

Wiles adds a new culinary program at CBC will let budding cooking stars stay local.

“We have very few chef-owned restaurants in the Tri-Cities,” says Wiles. “And that's where we really start to see the culture of art come to culinary.”

The closest alternative for students is Walla Walla Community College's culinary arts program.

Dan Thiessen runs it and says CBC officials observed his classes while planning the new facility. He instructs about 20 students twice a year, drawing from Moses Lake, the Tri-Cities, Spokane, and Walla Walla.

While CBC's new Kennewick facility could divert some of those students, Thiessen is not worried. He said most private, for-profit culinary schools are expensive, locking students into debt. He said the community college route gives students the same skills for less.

"We aren't graduating executive chefs," Thiessen said. "No one is. It takes years in this industry to work up to that level."

According to his research, Thiessen said culinary schools around the U.S. are on a 25-percent decline over the last few years, with many of the for-profit institutions losing government funding. He said those schools often leave students with up to $60,000 in debt.

"Those graduating students can't support themselves on $12 an hour," Thiessen said. "Community college is really the way to go. CBC has the right idea, trying to grow off of the Tri-Cities food and wine industry."

Back in the Kennewick Tri-Tech kitchen, Iozzia tastes her sugary streusel pie topping.

“Mmmm, that’s really good,” she smiles. “I could eat a whole bowl of that!”

While she will not see the CBC culinary school come to fruition before she graduates, she agrees it’s an idea, sweet as apple pie.

[WATCH full video report on KAPP-KVEW's Facebook page.]

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