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Degree or certificate program at CLC: Earned two A.A.S. degrees, one in hospitality and culinary management in 2015 and another in baking and pastry arts in 2016; plans to work full time as a baker.

Hometown: Gurnee

High School: Warren Township High School, 2011.

Hobbies and interests: Cooking, baking and painting.

Victoria Moran

CLC’s courses in hospitality and culinary management are hands-on, and the instructors’ range of real-world experience is impressive. They have worked not only in restaurants but in hotels and cruise ships, and they share with us their insights and practical advice. They offer tips on everything from the differences between a hotel cook versus a line cook to the importance of showing professionalism and hospitality when interacting with customers.

One great part of CLC’s hospitality and culinary arts program is the opportunity to put together a portfolio of your work. After I create an entrée, pastry or dessert, I take pictures of the ingredients as well as the final product. The photos go into the portfolio along with the recipe, budget and actual costs. Putting together a portfolio teaches you how to be organized and professional, and it’s a great thing to carry into a job interview.

Outside of the classroom, I liked gaining real-world experience in CLC’s Prairie restaurant. As part of an advanced culinary class, students take turns serving as host, prepping salads, cooking entrees, plating the food and serving real customers. I worked mainly in kitchen; when we needed dough for breads, I had to make more dough quickly. I learned time management. It’s a privilege to have a restaurant on campus because it shows you what an actual job is like. Working there is like an internship.

Besides Prairie restaurant, I appreciate how Rob Wygant and the other instructors have encouraged me to believe in myself and enter recipe contests. It was exciting and a little overwhelming when I placed as one of four student finalists in Maple Leaf Farms’ national 2015 Discover Duck Recipe Contest for Professional Chefs and Culinary Students. I was proud because it was my first time cooking duck. I entered a recipe that I designed while enrolled in a CLC advanced culinary class, Spicy Mango Duck Satay with Peanut Sauce and Microgreen Salad. The instructor told us about the contest and challenged us to come up with creative way to cook duck. Since most people just roast duck, I decided to marinate and grill it. Besides the recognition and the chance to add something to my resume, it was cool to win the $500 cash prize and a new knife set.

Although my grandmother passed away before I was born, her interest in cooking really influenced me. She was a stay-at-home mom who taught herself to cook dishes and bake, and she often had neighbors and company at her house for dinner or desserts. I like cooking because it’s hands-on and connects you with other people.

When I first graduated from high school, I was apprehensive about college. But my experience at CLC has been so enjoyable. There hasn’t been one teacher who I haven’t liked.  They’re good people—they’re quick to reply to email, and they have office hours to help you outside of class. Plus, CLC is close to home and offers a high-quality education at a low price.   CLC’s smaller class sizes make it easier to talk one-on-one with others or the instructor, and that makes the classes more rewarding and more personal. If I had to do it over again, I would pick CLC in a heartbeat. Another thing that I like about CLC is the good variety of morning, evening and online classes. I’ve been able to schedule classes around my part-time job as a campus groundskeeper.

I would tell a new CLC student to just go for it and start taking general education classes. If you’re not sure of your major, you can always go to the Counseling center for help in choosing a career. I started as an art major, but I wasn’t sure of what I wanted. Meeting with a counselor helped me transition to culinary arts. What’s neat about a career as a chef or baker is that it uses creativity and taps into my artistic side.