A Brief History
The Culinary Arts Program originally was part of the Hospitality and Travel Department of El Paso Community College; it is estimated that it became its own discipline sometime around 1997 to 1998. Its numbers began strong but then dwindled down to just 11 students by the end of 2000. In December of 2000, a new dean and a new coordinator took charge of the program which then consisted of only Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management. Under the new leadership the program underwent a complete overhaul and the results were positive—the numbers of the program began growing at a geometric rate, doubling almost every academic year. The end result of this growth is that the program sits at just over 260 students currently enrolled in the program today.
The Culinary Arts program has always been a dedicated supporter of the community, whether assisting the city of El Paso in times of need or judging Girl Scout Cooking Events, the program has stood ready to serve. The facilities provide a greater foundation from which to operate and the return to the community both in terms of service as well as instruction will be unparalleled. The mindset of the Coordinator, as well as the instructional staff of the Culinary Program, is to be this region’s best culinary program from San Antonio, TX to Phoenix, AZ and beyond. We feel very confident in the quality level of our graduates and will gladly put our graduates in competition against any other schools grads. Such is our confidence in the quality of instruction that EPCC students receive. We feel that the physical program matches the quality level of the curriculum.
Meeting Industry Growth
According to statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the employment rate in El Paso has decreased from 11.8% to 7.9% in 2020. Professional and business services sector increased by 5.8% annually, followed by the education and health services sector. The hospitality sector has increased by an annual average of 580 jobs over the past 6 years. Since 2000, the labor force has increased by 45,500. More than 80% of the job growth in the El Paso region was in the service providing sectors. With the completion of the proposed Culinary Program, EPCC will be well positioned to meet the needs of an ever growing job sector.
From the regional level, EPCC is the only Culinary Arts Program at the collegiate level, with the closest similar program residing in Albuquerque, NM. NMSU has a Food Science program and is currently partnered with EPCC. This, geographically speaking, places the city of El Paso almost central between Phoenix and San Antonio, the next closest cities with strong Culinary Programs. This makes EPCC an ideal resource for El Paso and the surrounding areas as the primary Culinary School for the West Texas and Southern New Mexico region. The closest culinary program in Mexico is modeled after the EPCC program and is located in Chihuahua, Mexico.
Local, regional and national trends and estimates suggest that the foodservice industry will continue to grow at an expanding rate. The geographic location of El Paso in relation to not only the border, but other major U.S. cities leaves us in an enviable spot to serve the needs of not only West Texas and Southern New Mexico, but also our neighbors in Mexico. The Culinary Program already has a notably strong reputation in the region, such that companies as far away as Alaska and California seek out our graduates.
The Culinary Arts Program at EPCC will continue to evolve and grow. Through collaborative endeavors across disciplines within the college as well as innovative partnerships in the industry, our students will continue to gain an ever increasing insight into the foodservice industry and graduate from the program all the stronger. It is the intent of the program leaders and instructors to maintain 100% placement of graduates and to continue as educational partners on the individual level with each student of the program, thus providing a path for lifelong learning and professional fulfillment. With the completion of the new program, our reputation as an industry leader and innovator will be further cemented and our program will be even more widely recognized as the Best Place to start a culinary career.
New Mexico State University
Currently, the EPCC Culinary Arts program is partnered with New Mexico State University. This benefits both programs as students at NMSU are able to take the advanced culinary classes that El Paso Community College offers, while EPCC students graduate from EPCC and transition directly into the Food Science Program at NMSU. This same partnership extends to grant writing opportunities for both educational entities. NMSU was recently awarded a grant that endowed the El Paso Community College Culinary Arts Program with just over $12000.00 in funds for equipment.
Area High Schools
Possibly, the most important partnership for the Culinary Program lays with its commitment to the area High School Culinary Programs. EPCC is partnered with EPISD, SISD, YISD and CISD and works proactively with each district’s culinary students, both through joint program efforts as well as hosting the annual Skills USA Culinary Competition. Winners from past years have gone on to compete not only at state level but also to advance to the national level of competition. The benefit to EPCC is that many of the high school students select the Culinary Program at EPCC to continue their education.
Savor by SMG
The Culinary Program is also partnered with Savor by SMG, the management company that oversees the convention center, as well as a multitude of outlets in the El Paso region. The goal of this partnership is to extend opportunities for students, not only in El Paso, but beyond. The benefit to SMG is a hiring ground from which qualified candidates can be tested and trained for their worldwide operations.
The Culinary Arts Program at EPCC is also partnered with Sysco Foods. This partnership was developed primarily to enhance the Research and Test Kitchen in the proposed facilities. The basis of the partnership relies on EPCC providing the build out of the kitchen, while Sysco provides the equipment. Projected costs of equipment are estimated at $90000.00+. Sysco will utilize the area on a regular and scheduled basis while EPCC students will benefit from the area while not in use by Sysco. It should also be noted that Sysco reps will rely on EPCC students to act as assistants during demos done for Sysco customers, for which the student’s entry fee into the ACF will be paid. This not only allows our students the opportunity to network professionally but also assists them in their professional goals of certification and competition through the ACF.