Chef Michael Wells started exploring his love for the culinary arts at age 15. Now, he's putting on a different type of hat a teaching one to pass on his knowledge and love for the profession to students enrolled in the Somerset Community College (SCC) Culinary Arts program at the SCC McCreary Campus.
Wells was recently hired as the Culinary Arts program coordinator and instructor. He begins teaching this fall and will be accompanied by Eduardo Nazario, a local chef who will also be serving as an instructor for the program.
Wells began his career in the culinary arts as a teen and worked under James Honeycutt, an executive chef who ran his own restaurant in Huntington, Indiana. Upon leaving that post, Wells worked in a variety of restaurants and finished chef school at Ivy Tech Community College in Fort Wayne, Indiana. At that time, he decided to experiment with different styles of foods and career settings to find out what interested him the most. He was directed toward upscale dining and high-end events, he said, and focused his efforts in that area, working in country club settings and serving as the general manager and executive chef of two events and catering companies.
In 2006, Wells and his family relocated to Kentucky where he began working for the Kentucky State Parks program as a chef at Natural Bridge State Park. His most recent position was at Barren River State Park.
My family and I absolutely love Kentucky, Wells said. We have met genuinely nice people and we love the weather here. Its one of the most consistently beautiful places Ive been.
In addition to the beauty and friendliness of Kentucky, Wells was drawn to the opportunity with the state parks since he was looking for a position that would allow him to spend more time with his family.
After serving in active duty in Iraq, I refocused and decided to pursue a position that would allow me to spend more time with my wife and children, said Wells, a veteran.
And although he enjoyed his time with the state park system, Wells said that the opportunity to become the program coordinator and instructor with SCC came at just the right time in his life.
Ive reached the time where I feel like I have something valuable to contribute to the education of future culinary students, Wells said. Im excited to pass on my knowledge to the next generation of chefs and help develop them in the profession.
Wells holds several awards from the American Culinary Federation, won the Barren County Beef Association Rib eye cook-off and also won the Battle of the Best in Louisville in 2008.
The Culinary Arts program at SCC is offered at the SCC McCreary Center, located at 250 College Street in Whitley City. The program is designed to prepare students for careers in the culinary arts, food and beverage management, restaurant management, catering, institutional food service and as professional chefs.
Wells said he and Nazario would each bring their own backgrounds to the program, particularly high-end food preparation and large scale event operations. In addition, Wells was formally trained in French cuisine and plans to incorporate that style into the program.
Most people don't realize that a chef is not only in charge of the food, but also manages the bar area, trains servers and other employees and oversees several things that don't necessarily involve cooking, said Wells. My goal here is to make sure that the students in this program are prepared to be successful in all areas of this profession.
According to the United States Department of Labor, the median salary for chefs and cooks was nearly $20 per hour in 2010. The job outlook was projected to remain steady from 2010 to 2020 with job opportunities expected to be good. Wells said that those in high-end facilities, upscale restaurants and hotels with several years of experience can expect high competition for positions, as well as higher salaries.
The popularity of cable television programs on the Food Network and the explosion of cooking-related resources on the internet have made the general public more aware than ever before, Wells said. This means more chefs have to become knowledgeable and better prepared before working with the public.
Wells also said that the recent wet/dry vote in Somerset may allow for more opportunities within the profession.
We hope to see new restaurant opportunities, which could benefit graduates of this program, he said.
The SCC Culinary Arts program is now enrolling students. To find out more, contact Wells at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (859) 556-9560.