Ivy Tech culinary program showcases world food

By Tony Little

For the majority of us, taking a trip around the world is probably out of the question. The money, the time, the travel … what a pain. So, when news broke of the first Ivy Tech Global Food Tour it was a no-brainer. Why go through all the trouble of travel when you can just try the food from different countries instead?

To put the icing on the “Opera Cake,” the tour took place at Ivy Tech’s $22 million, 15,000 square foot Culinary and Conference Center, which was formerly the site of Stouffer’s Hotel (where Elvis stayed after his last performance in Indianapolis). The hotel was renovated intact to give Ivy Tech students a state-of-the-art facility at 22nd and Meridian streets.

The Global Food Tour raised money to help students who are leaving for a field trip to France. The event was well received with a good number attending. Going from table to table to try different items from different parts of the world was a unique experience. Each table represented a different country and the students showcased the food they prepared. Highlights included the octopus from Greece and opera cake from France.

While the Global Food Tour is all about food from different parts of the world, the Ivy Tech Culinary program is all about the students. Students like Gwen Billingsley, a graduate from Franklin Township High School. Billingsley, like many other students, is set to graduate from the program with two degrees. She will also attend the field trip in France.

Graduating student chef Gwen Billingsley and Department Chair of Hospitality Administration Jeff Bricker. (Photo by Tony Little)

“This program is designed to give the students an opportunity to end with two associate’s degrees, one in Baking and Pastry Arts and the other in Culinary Arts. And it doesn’t cost twice the amount of money. Just a few thousand more,” she said.

Ivy Tech’s program is a quarter of the cost of other culinary schools in the region, and as Gwen explained, the program is 90 percent hands-on learning and students leave the program with over 200 hours of work experience. The program is nationally accredited by the American Culinary Federation Accrediting Commission. The accreditation affiliation for this program is extremely important, as it gives the students an opportunity to use the accreditation nationwide. Gwen was recently hired on in a downtown hotel kitchen and went into her employment way ahead of others because of her experiences at Ivy Tech.

Accreditation gives validity to the degrees or certifications that the students acquire in term, giving them more opportunities to excel in whatever position they chose in the food industry. And, students can transfer their credits to a four-year institution, as Ivy Tech has several four-year transfer partnerships in place. Ivy Tech’s goal for the program is to be a zero net waste. Calling it their “Farm to Fork” program, leftover food can either be donated or used in pulpers modified for batch operation; dehydrators reduce the food waste, generating soil used by local farmers to begin the whole process again.

Gwen finished the night by speaking highly of the instructors and their genuine care for the students and the commitment for the program’s success.