Culinary Arts & Cuisine: Schoolcraft Offers Program for Aspiring Chefs

By: Amber Ogden | April 3, 2015

It seems like every week, there are a handful of new restaurants popping up in the Metro Detroit area. With so many restaurateurs and talented chefs in the area, it’s no wonder that that’s the case.

What you may not realize is that tomorrow’s star chefs are being molded right now, right here in Metro Detroit. Schoolcraft College’s Culinary Arts program is one of the most renowned in the country, and with good reason. Did you know that “Top Chef: Boston” competitor and executive chef James Rigato of The Root is a graduate? “Top Chef: Boston” winner Mae Lin is also a graduate of Schoolcraft’s Culinary Arts program.

“I believe our culinary program is successful with students because of the support we received from our administration by purchasing the right product to show the students excellence in cooking, and also equipment that is current and state-of-the-art,” Chef Shawn Loving, Culinary Arts Department Chair of Schoolcraft College’s Culinary Arts program, said. “That makes a difference with the ever-changing trends in our profession.”

The program itself is set up for students to go through five-week increments of subjects that are all based around the foundation principles of cooking and pastry arts.

“Each of the subjects (is) lined up so that as you progress through the program, you’re learning the right applications before you move on to more advanced skill work. (For example), you must first learn how to butcher before you take advanced charcuterie. None of our core programs are allowed to be exchanged or taken as a side bar class on its own,” Loving said.

Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts Program

(Photo provided by Michelle Gaynier of Schoolcraft College)

Loving himself has some pretty astounding credentials: he has held positions as the 2008 U.S. Summer Olympics Basketball team chef and in-flight team chef for the Detroit Pistons, as well as chef for the Epcot Center at Disney World and Euro Disney. He has been a Schoolcraft instructor since 2002 and is currently executive chef for USA Basketball International, and will travel with the team to Rio de Janeiro in 2016 for the Summer Olympics.

Those enrolled in any one of the program’s classes may come across a local familiar face, such as certified Executive Chef Brian Polcyn, owner of Birmingham’s Forest Grill and a charcuterie instructor. With a student/teacher ratio of 16:1, students are able to get plenty of guidance from Certified Master Chefs and Certified Executive Chefs like Polcyn and Loving.

There are typically 192 students in the two-year associates degree program. Additionally, there are 32 students enrolled in a one-year baking and pastry program. Courses in the Culinary Arts program range from Culinary Sanitation to Butchery to Dining Room Service to Banquets and Catering.

“I can’t say that our program is built around being different in terms of how other culinary schools are set up, but I will say the attention to detail that each of our instructors provide for practical skills building is what I feel has made the tradition of excellence for Schoolcraft stand strong for generations,” Loving said.

Since these students are furiously whipping up all kinds of different dishes, it only makes sense that Schoolcraft has its own restaurant. At American Harvest, all meals are prepared and served by the program’s students. This is one place where you can get a super swanky meal at a portion of the price!

Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts Program

(Photo provided by Michelle Gaynier of Schoolcraft College)

A breakfast buffet is held Thursday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and lunch is served beginning at noon Tuesday through Friday. There is also a dinner buffet Thursday through Friday beginning at 5:30 p.m.

American Harvest, along with Main Street Café, allow for students to display their product and instructors to gauge students’ learning experiences. Both permit guests to experience international cuisine for dinner and a variety of foods and pastry on display. Fellow Schoolcraft students enrolled in other programs can also experience student’s creations via Henry’s Food Court.

“Henry’s is a Café or food court that specifically is operated for our students across campus and also is an opportunity for culinary students to hold jobs or positions to showcase the skills they learned in the core program,” Loving said.

Graduates of Schoolcraft’s Culinary Arts program have gone on to work in a variety of restaurants, hotels, resorts and casinos across the globe, including Dubai, Las Vegas, Taiwan and Chicago.

For more information on Schoolcraft’s Culinary Arts program, visit the official website.