Lawson State Dishes Up New Culinary Opportunities

Lawson StateEnthusiasm abounds at Lawson State Community College as a long desired dream has now become reality. The College has just dished up new opportunities through recent advancements to its Culinary Arts Program. Call it a trifecta – new wing, new chefs, and a new degree. “We are excited about our continued growth and expansion at the college,” said Dr. Perry W. Ward, president of Lawson State Community College. “We have several major projects on the drawing board and the completion of the culinary arts project positions us to provide additional resources that lead to greater employment opportunities and a better quality of life for our students as well as the community.” One of the most visible enhancements to the program is the brand new Culinary Arts Wing, an addition to the A.G. Gaston Building on the college’s Birmingham East Campus. The new construction was part of a $4.2 million renovation project to the A.G. Gaston building that began in August 2013 and completed in August 2014. This past October, Lawson State celebrated the Grand Opening of the Culinary Wing. The 11,000 square foot one-story building consists of three state-of-the art training kitchens, a baking and finishing studio, a formal dining room, butler’s pantry, walk-in refrigerator and freezer, a patio as well as administrative spaces. Its extensive glass interior façade is inviting, and features open spaces and optimum views for training and demonstrations. The formal dining room can open to the foyer or private patio and be conducive for formal and informal receptions, community outreach activities and corporate meetings. With an eye towards progress, the grand opening also highlighted the completion of major renovations to the 46,300 square foot A.G. Gaston Building that was erected in 1949. The renovations included interior revamps to selected labs, public spaces, restrooms, sun roof areas with metal roof and clear story construction, in addition to electrical and HVAC upgrades. Culinary Arts, previously Commercial Foods, is not new to Lawson State. For years, Lawson State Community College has been providing students with extensive training and opportunities to develop skills essential for success in the field of culinary arts. And now, as part of the triad, the Associate of Applied Science Degree in Culinary Arts is now offered, in addition to certificates.


The program is growing by leaps and bounds and operates under the leadership of two chef instructors, Deborah Harris and Adam Elliott, and an executive certified chef consultant, Clayton Sherrod. “Due to our increasing interest and growth, I am happy that we were able to make enhancements to our program,” said Chef Instructor Harris, who has been at the helm of the program for years. “As there are constant changes in the culinary world, such as lifestyle changes and industry improvements, Lawson State adapts its curriculum to meet the demand. Culinary students are exposed to specialized learning experiences that include theories and hands-on opportunities. Students are also provided with a broad spectrum of culinary fundamentals that focus on purchasing, preserving, preparing and serving foods. Essential topics such as human nutrition, food quality, food safety, sanitation practices, design & organization of food service systems, cost control, facility management and related business practices are also incorporated into the program.” As a consultant to Lawson State’s culinary program, well-known Chef Clayton Sherrod has been moving at a whirlwind pace. An inductee to the prestigious American Academy of Chefs, he knows what it takes to get to the next level, and has suggested and made modifications to the program. He has also been instrumental in involving the students in various community projects. He, Chefs Elliott and Harris and students have partnered with the American Heart Association for numerous culinary events; appeared on local television stations FOX 6, ABC 33/40 and CBS 42; been honored by the Birmingham Mayor and City Council; participated in a magazine shoot; and been invited to participate with Birmingham Mayor William Bell’s Task Force on Healthy Eating. “I take a huge interest in our products, that is, our students. My commitment is to see them succeed and put them on the map,” said Sherrod. Even though their plates are full, students are continually challenged to reach the next level of perfection. “My next emphasis will be for each student to develop and perfect a signature culinary item. They then become the authority on this item,” said Sherrod. “I began the culinary program during the fall semester and I have been exposed to so much in such a short time,” said Jeremy Ruffin, a first-semester student. “I will always look back at my experiences and know that they provided me with the solid foundation needed for a successful professional career.” With significance, enthusiasm, and progress on their side, the Culinary Program at Lawson State is poised for success for many years to simple. We just need to eat healthier and the risk of contracting any sort of heart problem will be greatly reduced. In fact, you can add about 15 years to your life by just changing a few things in your diet. In order to eat healthier, we need to focus on eating more raw foods, which mainly consists of vegetables. Raw vegetables contain zero cholesterol, which is a fat or lipid that can clog arteries, cause plaque and ultimately lead to heart disease and early death. The reason people in the past sought to cook food so much is that it was often dirty and it would make them sick if they tried to consume it as it was. In African villages, people that do not have running water must go to the rivers and get it from there. Of course it is not clean, so what do they do? They boil it first to kill the germs and then let it cool and then they will drink it and cook with it. Nowadays the food we get is basically edible when we get it. That means we are not taking any risks if we go raw with our diets. Of course we still wash our vegetables, but we no longer have to boil them as long, if at all. Some people might be asking what is the main difference between raw and cooked food? Well the thing is when food is being cooked, the temperature gets so high that most of the nutrients in the food are destroyed! That means that we are not getting in as many nutrients as we would be led to believe. Many diseases that are prevalent today come about because people do not get as many nutrients as they should from the food they are eating. When you eat raw clean food, you can rest assured that you will not miss out on any essential nutrients inside the food. Some people may also ask what the nutrients can do for them? Well the biggest thing is that they can easily prevent you from contracting most illnesses. Many people who have gone raw have not had any slight sign of the flu or cold in many years. Some even say it has been more than 15 years since they were last sick! With all the advances in science and medicine, people in the developing world now have a life expectancy which is very high. Sometimes it is over 80 years old and that is despite eating all of this unhealthy food. How many more years can we add to this if we all went raw? Maybe another 15 years! Japan has so many people living to an old age, probably because they eat so much raw food such as sushi, that it is actually becoming a huge problem for them! Now going raw is a process, and it is not going to happen overnight, but when you consider how it can prevent illnesses and add years to your life, isn’t it worth a try?

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ABOUT LAWSON STATE: Lawson State Community College – ranked the Nation’s #5 Community College (2013); recognized as a “Champion of Change” by the White House (2011); ranked as one of “America’s 50 Best Community Colleges.” (2010) Lawson State Community College, with campuses in Birmingham and Bessemer, seeks to provide accessible, quality educational opportunities, promote economic growth, and enhance the quality of life for students. The college is dedicated to providing affordable and accessible lifelong learning opportunities in order to prepare students for employment and career advancement, or to transfer to senior institutions. For additional information about Lawson State,
contact Geri Albright (205) 929-6315 office; (205) 370-8201 cell.