Culinary Arts Department
Culinary classes provide hands-on instruction by experienced chefs in essential cooking and baking techniques, food safety and sanitation practices, nutrition, kitchen management, and inventory control. These programs prepare students for a wide range of jobs in the food industry.
All courses in the first semester in all programs are identical. This creates a stackable program giving students the ability to earn multiple certificates while working toward their A.A.S. degree.
Students are also able to earn certificates that are part of the ManageFirst® Program from the National Restaurant Association (NRA). Students will gain marketable skills for a career in the restaurant and foodservice industry in hotels, restaurants, bakeries, and institutions in entry-level positions in culinary and baking.
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Chef Louis Hernandez
Director, Culinary Arts Program
Chef Louis Hernandez
Director, Culinary Arts Program
Meet Chef Louis Hernandez
“My true love and passion is culinary arts,” says Louis Hernandez, a chef and instructor of the Culinary Arts program.
“I’m very excited about the program and the culinary facility,” he added, referring to the fully-equipped professional kitchens designed for the PCCC Wanaque Academic Center (WAC), where the culinary program is based.
“A career in food is a great choice for students,” says Chef Hernandez. “People will always have to eat, and if you feed them well, they’ll come back.”
An adventurous eater who has “a passionate respect for food” the chef hopes to instill in his students that same respect, along with the skills and knowledge he has gained from over 30 years of experience in cooking, catering, restaurant operation, teaching, and even corporate administration.
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of The City University of New York, where he earned a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree (summa cum laude) and a Master’s degree in Language and Literacy, Chef Hernandez also holds culinary degrees from The New York Restaurant School and The Art Institute of New York.
He has taught English, culinary arts, and restaurant management, serving on the faculty of The New York Restaurant School, The Art Institute of New York, Hudson County Community College, and La Tecnica de Cocina in New York.
A particularly rewarding venture for Chef Hernandez was teaching for Job Power, an outreach initiative in Jersey City that taught homeless people cooking skills for future employment. “That went very well,” he said. “Some of the students were placed in jobs and became very successful.”
The Chicago native said his interest in cooking began in childhood and sustained him when he was a student at The University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana and worked summer jobs in restaurants. “I learned the ropes by handling cash, customers, and cooking,” said Chef Hernandez.
Due to financial problems, he left college and went to work as a banquet waiter in the Marriott at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport. Later, he switched gears and took a position in computer operations at the Board of Trade Clearing Corporation that cleared trades for the Chicago Board of Trade.
A job transfer to New York in an administrative position in the early 80s, enabled Chef Hernandez to experience different cuisines. Then, in 1985, he opened Café Louis in Hoboken, a popular eatery that was recognized in The New York Times “New Jersey’s Best Dining Out Guide” and the prestigious Zagat’s Guide for New Jersey.
While running Café Louis, the chef also returned to college. “I laugh about the fact that I opened a restaurant first, then went to culinary school,” said Chef Hernandez.
After 10 successful years, he sold the café to pursue a teaching career.
The curriculum Chef Hernandez helped design for the PCCC Culinary Arts program is both practical and visionary. Classes train students in all aspects of a culinary job, from cooking and baking to kitchen management, sanitation, purchasing, and catering.
But the courses also explore culinary arts in a broader context: the politics of food, the role of food in film, and how food can influence social attitudes and create community.
“Food brings people together,” said Chef Hernandez, who loves French food and is currently sampling Honduran cuisine. “When you expand your palate by eating foods from different cultures, you expand your understanding of those cultures.”
He plans to open a dining room at WAC and envisions a “Brunch and Lunch” initiative that will offer students more opportunities for hands-on experience while raising funds to support the culinary program. “Wanaque is a great location for this, and it will be good for the College,” he added.
Culinary students will also enjoy field trips to various restaurants and guest lectures presented by experts drawn from Chef Hernandez’ extensive professional contacts in the food and pastry business.
He hopes this holistic approach to culinary training will not only produce new generations of well-qualified chefs but also help transform social attitudes toward cooking and eating.
“People often think of cooking as a chore, something to be done as quickly as possible,” said the chef, adding, “Cooking is entertainment, and eating out is entertainment.” Both experiences, he says, are to be savored.
For Chef Hernandez, culinary activity is truly an art form, and the chef is a master artist. “It takes skill, patience, and time to combine ingredients and make something of them,” he added. “There is great satisfaction in eating a dinner you spent half a day preparing.”