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Restaurants struggle to staff kitchens, while local schools train next generation of chefs

Posted at 10:19 AM, Sep 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-16 11:38:45-04

BRYAN, Texas — In a district with over 20 schools and 15,000 kids, you’re sure to find more than just pens, paper and projects.

“At school,” said Brad Dees, a teacher at Bryan ISD. “The motivation is food."

On any given day, Dees is teaching more than just equations and history lessons; he’s teaching students how to mince, saute and chiffonade.

On Wednesday, he went over the menu.

“Ground pork, ground chicken,” he said, in front of a class of students. “That’ll be your choice.”

Can you guess what they’re making? I’ll help you out since there are few details: eggrolls.

“They get to try things they never have before,” Dees said. “They get to make different dishes.”

“I’ll go get the vegetables if you guys get set up,” said one student, reading off of the recipe card, printed on a standard piece of printer paper.

Scott Tolle listened, and replied, “Ok.”

He’s used to the kitchen. His mom works in food service and has ever since he can remember.

“She's just been around food her whole life and that's kind of rubbed off on me a little bit,” he said. “I'm currently working under her.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, washing your hands in the service industry is a trend that seems won’t let up.

“The industry has taken a kind of a beating and loss of a lot of employees,” Dees said.

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the need for cooks is far outpacing the number of students interested.

In fact, the demand is slated to increase by 25%, a growth that’s 8% more than other industries.

Filling those vacancies though? Easier said than done. Just ask Melba Tucker, the owner of Downtown Uncorked in South College Station.

“It's almost like having somebody who's never done it before, but you're also having to pay them for experience that they don't necessarily have,” Tucker said. “So, it's a little frustrating.”

Back at Viking Bistro inside Bryan High School, Chef Dees is writing the recipe for success.

“It's good to be able to train these kids,” he said. “So, giving them a little knowledge that maybe they can jump in the industry and help some of these places that are really looking for employees right now.”

He’s part of a system that is helping teens like Tolle achieve whatever it is that they want to, one chop at a time.

“It shows that you care enough to actually know what's what and restaurants and food service places, just they, they like that they like that a lot and they appreciate it and they are looking for anyone like that to help them,” Tolle ended with.