“Real kitchen, real chef…the whole nine yards,” said senior Pheobe Holland, when asked to describe the Butler Tech Culinary Arts program.
That expression of authenticity and measure is being recognized nationally as Butler Tech Culinary Arts was named to the 2019 Elite 50, an annual selection of the top fifty secondary school hospitality programs in the nation.
Awarded by Sullivan University, the Elite 50 recognizes high schools and career and technical centers that have set the standard for training in culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and hospitality management, all while demonstrating a dedication to community outreach and service. Butler Tech’s culinary program consistently exceeds this mark by averaging more than sixty catered community events each school year. Chef Simpson, the program’s instructor, explained that those community events are nearly all voluntary for the students and often occur in the evenings and on weekends. Additionally, the juniors and seniors in the program operate Cafe Lee, a restaurant on Butler Tech’s Fairfield Township campus, manage the Bistro Bus food-truck at numerous festivals and events, and compete at the state and national level in culinary competitions throughout the year.
“The program is high-volume, high-speed,” said Holland who plans to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in the fall. “When I started as a junior I don’t believe I had a strong work ethic, but I quickly realized that the pace and expectations that Chef Simpson sets here are preparing me for a successful future.”
Senior Andrew Krieg agrees that all of the hard work has paid off as he heads to Johnson Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island to pursue his culinary passion next year. “There are no short-cuts, we make everything from scratch and do the work for each and every event,” said Krieg, explaining that the group will often serve more than two hundred guests per event and execute all of the food preparation, service, and clean-up.
More than 350 schools designated as Hospitality Programs of Distinction were invited to apply for the honor of being named to the Elite 50 list. Criteria for the schools selected for the Elite 50 included an original recipe with photos or a restaurant management design and instructor educational/certification background and informational materials such as videos or brochures about the school’s program.
As Chef Simpson and his students prepare for a very busy April with ten catered events, three Cafe Lee openings and two state competitions, Chef shared his thoughts on Butler Tech Culinary Arts’ Elite 50 designation. “It’s good to see that the other schools’ names on this list are familiar. These are schools we compete against and often beat at state and national competitions. We are in good company.”