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Ventura County's Support-Local Program

There’s A New VACE In Town

Pat Doler molds the exciting future of culinary education at Ventura Adult and Continuing Education’s new Culinary Arts Academy, a program for budding new chefs.

A very special dessert

Pat Doler, VACE Culinary Arts Academy

Pat Doler, VACE Culinary Arts Academy

Pat Doler was about to sit down to dessert at the end-of-the-year reception honoring retiring teachers of the Ventura Unified School District. After thirteen years, Doler was leaving her position as the Culinary Arts Instructor at Ventura High School – a program that utilized her cooking and teaching skills to run a vocational program that honed not only culinary skills, but planning, marketing and teamwork, and resulted in a new direction for many students. Before she could take her first bite, Teresa Johnson, Director/Principal for the Ventura Adult and Continuing Education (VACE), approached her stating, “We need to talk.” Doler wondered if she should return her dessert without eating it; there was something in Johnson’s tone suggesting that maybe this wasn’t to be Doler’s swan song with Ventura Unified.

The new VACE Culinary Arts Academy program

Fast forward and Pat Doler has something new “cooking in the kitchen” and she has set her sights high! The Ventura Adult and Continuing Education Culinary Arts Academy is a culinary program for budding new chefs that will be open to those 18 and older who seek training and certificationVACE-logo in the Culinary Arts. But it is also much more. Headquartered in a new commercial kitchen and training facility being built at VACE’s Valentine Road site, the VACE Culinary Arts Academy will allow approximately 26 students who enroll in an 18-month full-time program to receive a Culinary Arts Certificate of Accomplishment as well as professional certification through the American Culinary Federation. VACE is already accredited by the Western Association of School and Colleges and the Council on Occupational Education, further underscoring its credibility and cachet for certificated students. Soon after opening, financial aid will be made available to students attending the program through Pell Grants and other resources. Some private scholarships are already in the works.

Professional training in the ideal location

Doler’s role will be primarily administrative as the academy will employ professional chef instructors to teach fundamentals using a vigorous curriculum. Guest trainers will be invited in periodically to share specialized skills with the class. “In the current climate, it’s critical that we build a program based on local, sustainable food uses and instill in students the need to consider environmental issues, such as the current drought, in-food sourcing and preparation,” Doler offers. “With our abundance of resources and experts, Ventura County is the ideal location to instill these principles. We plan to utilize the expertise of local, guest instructors to help offer more than the fundamentals to our students.” The academy will also have the assistance of a food-industry-based Advisory Board. “Students need to learn both the front and back of the house (restaurant lingo for customer service and beverage service as well as food preparation),” indicates Doler. “We need experts in sourcing, farming, catering, wine and beverage education and etiquette as well as food preparation.” While the Academy’s official opening date will be announced closer to facility completion, Doler has already initiated enrichment courses that will continue even after the certification program begins.

The Taste of VACE

An advantage of being part of an adult and continuing education program is the Taste of VACE, recently launched by Doler. The Taste program, which is currently being held at the Pierpont Inn’s Pavilion kitchen, will continue at the Academy once the facility is up and running. When regular classes end for the day, a variety of community enrichment classes, either one-time or series, will be offered to the general public. The most recent series began in late October, offering participants a three-hour foundation class in knife skills, taste and flavor and two additional classes, currently in either Italian, Thai or Mexican cooking, complete with take-home souvenirs. “My goal is for Taste of VACE is to continually offer cooking and baking classes that appeal to the hobby cook as well as a series of courses like professional baking for those more business minded,” says Doler. “Ventura County is ripe for the VACE Culinary Arts Academy,” states Kat Merrick, founder of Totally Local VC. “We have the agricultural and farming resources and expertise, culinary creativity and the perfect environment to launch the future of cutting edge culinary experience. With the backing of Ventura Unified, Pat Doler is the perfect person to head that up.”

But wait, there’s more

Not wanting to leave anything on the table, Doler has a few more tricks up her sleeve that will ensure robust offerings at all levels of academy instruction. “We will do what we do with our usual standard of excellence and we will always have a full plate of course offerings,” hints Doler, with a twinkle in her eye. More than that she cannot say, but it certainly helps whet our appetite for what promises to be a delicious experience offered by the new VACE in town.

More information about the current Taste of VACE series and the VACE Culinary Arts Academy

Address: 5200 Valentine Road, Ventura CA 93003
Contact: Pat Doler, Culinary Arts Coordinator
Phone: (805) 289-7925 ext 1014

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