The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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Page 85 of 136

july 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  85 Produce for the Pino Alto restaurant and catering service is grown by the horticulture department of the college and in the herb garden on the grounds at Sesnon House. Culinary Arts student Amoreena Lucero picks herbs for lunch service at the Pino Alto restaurant in Sesnon House. as a summer home for William and Mary Sesnon in 1911, the house was home to a seminary and school, until it was purchased by the college in 1978. After being severely dam- aged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989, it sat vacant for a decade until being restored and reopened in 1996. The beautifully-renovated manse, with its combined Mission, Moorish and American architecture, houses the Pino Alto restaurant, named after the original estate, and a catering business, both of which are run by the advanced students and directed by Slater and her team of chef instruc- tors and special events administrators. "We average 250 students annually and our program has doubled in size since the move to Sesnon in 1997," she says. In addition to serving lunch and dinner during the semester, the restaurant hosts several winemaker dinners with local producers, most recently featuring the wines of local Roudon-Smith Winery. As the finale for each semester, the advanced culinary students also design and create a menu of courses paired with wines from Santa Cruz Mountain producers. Playing host to the annual events for the Santa Cruz Winegrowers Association also helps build ties with the wine community. In her role as director of the Culinary Arts Department of the college, Slater has her hands full. "We teach in real time; we have to realize a profit for weddings, special events and for our restaurant." Menus revolve around seasonal and regional ingredients, many of which are grown by the horticulture department of the college and in the herb garden on the grounds at Sesnon. The depth of Slater's classical training is evidenced in the menu options which span the globe from coastal Californian, French, Italian, Mediterranean and Asian flavors, all designed to appeal to even the most discerning client. Twice the Talent Slater brings a wealth of talent and 30 years of experi- ence to her roles as a chef, educator and administrator. A graduate of the Cabrillo College program herself, she went on to complete her culinary training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. After her return to Santa Cruz, she ran her own catering company and began teaching part-time at the college in 1986. She was named lead instructor for the catering program in 1997 and worked with local winemaker Steve Storrs and several winemakers in the area to expand the curriculum with the introduction of wine classes in 2000. Slater has continued to cultivate her own wine knowledge, earning certifications from the Society of Wine Educators and the French and Spanish Wine Scholar programs. The evolution and richness of the certificate programs and Associate of Science culinary arts degree offered at Cabrillo are telling. In addition to the AS degree, the college offers a certificate of achievement in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and skills certificates in Cooking, Baking and Catering. "We attract lots of international students," says Slater, whose current students hail from Brazil, Holland, China, Timor and many other countries. "Our real-world program has a great reputation for producing graduates with a high level of professionalism and strong service training." Many graduates return to their home countries to establish their own businesses or find careers locally within the food and beverage industry. "Graduates of our programs are entrepreneurial," explains Slater. "We see older students who are retooling for a second career, and individuals who approaching the industry in new ways." She cites an example of a local delivery service started by a student called Kickin' Chicken, which uses a smartphone app to deliver fried chicken and waffles on demand. According to Slater, some of her best culinary students face learning challenges but, "Once we teach them the dish, they never have to rely on a recipe." While many grads have gone on to establish their own successful businesses, others find industry roles with wine brokers, distributors and with global wine companies in Northern California. Slater points to graduate Katie Vandermause, who has a highly visible role as Public Relations Manager at Constellation Wines U.S. Slater has seen the college's wine program, which consists of three skills certificates—Wine and Wine Service, Tasting Room Management and World Wine—produce some of the most compelling transitions for graduates. She points to a landscaper who went on to become a vineyard manager and eventually taught viticulture for the college, and another landscaper went on to become a winemaker, as did a former art gallery manager. "I will tell students, 'This class is going to change your life,' and in many cases, it does."

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