Co-Lin offers wonderful opportunity

Published 11:52 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2007

In a small community, it’s often difficult for a young person with a passion for an out-of-the-ordinary career to get the training he needs.

When I was young, I had my heart set on a career as a chef. Fortunately for me, when I was ready to learn, there was a place ready for me: Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Natchez. Just minutes from my home, Co-Lin Natchez had a Hospitality/Tourism Management Technology Program that offered every course I needed and even more. Discovering the program at Co-Lin was like discovering buried treasure.

There I learned not just how to cook — and cook well, I might add — but how to manage, organize and lead in the hotel and restaurant industry. The instructors I had were first-rate as they are now. The facilities then were great and even better now. My education at Co-Lin allowed me and my family to save thousands of dollars over a three-year period.

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The educational facilities include a mock hotel lobby, a full-size hotel guest suite, a massive industrial kitchen and a dining room. The academic aspects of the program allow students to learn what the latest texts and experts say about how to succeed in the industry.

When I graduated with my associate in applied science degree in 2001, I felt confident that I had made the right choice with Co-Lin Natchez. I then transferred to the prestigious hospitality college, Johnson & Wales University, where in 2003 I graduated cum laude with an associate’s in culinary arts and in 2005 earned my bachelor’s degree in food service management.

Also, through a summer study program in Europe, I earned an introductory level Sommelier’s Certificate in the summer of 2004.

I began my chef career working here in Natchez at The Castle Restaurant under Chef John Martin Terranova. Sure, it’s tough work, but I’ve been able to meet and work with some fabulous people in the industry, including Chef Robert Carter at The Peninsula Grill in Charleston, S.C. and Chef John Besh at Restaurant August in New Orleans, Provence in Lacombe, La., and most recently at Chef Besh’s newest restaurant LUKE on St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans. Both chefs are leading the culinary scene in their respective cuisines today. Now I’m a chef at Martin Wine Cellar New Orleans.

So for the past five years, I have been living my dream of being a chef and managing food services.

With the new casinos and hotels planned for the Miss-Lou, anyone who has a passion for earning a living in the industry would be smart to start now learning the skills necessary to be hired.

A wonderful opportunity awaits someone willing to take some initiative and head to Co-Lin Natchez. Give Nancy Best, the Hospitality/Tourism Management Technology instructor, a call at 601-446-1158. She’s had lots of experience in the industry and is dedicated to helping her students do well. You also can call Vonnie White, the Career and Technical Education Center counselor at 601-446-1150.

Discover for yourself what I did eight years ago: that Co-Lin Natchez is a place to succeed. I couldn’t have accomplished the goals I have to date without my start at Co-Lin.

Michael Plauche’ is a Natchez native now working as a chef in New Orleans.