CulinaryLab, under the direction of Chef Director Ryan Wagner, differs from other training programs in the region by offering an immersive, hands-on approach that not only includes 28 weeks of professional chef-led training, but also incorporates an apprenticeship in a restaurant kitchen alongside some of Orange County’s most noted chefs. Local Chef Partners currently include Mark McDonald, Chef/Owner of Old Vine Café; Carlos Salgado, Chef/Owner of Taco Maria; Jason Quinn, Chef/Owner of Playground; Peter Petro, Executive Chef of Bosscat Kitchen and Libations; and Ashley Guzman, formerly Pastry Chef at North Left and 2015 Golden Foodie Award-Winner for “Outstanding Pastry Chef.”
Limited to nine students per class, CulinaryLab’s intimate culinary training sessions focus on teaching proper cooking techniques and allowing students to perfect each skill for two days per week over the course of seven months. Trained Chef Instructors will include the local restaurant community into the class curriculum to ensure that students gain valuable insight that will enable them to transition into the industry seamlessly upon graduating. Local chefs, farmers, artisans, authors, and food scientists will serve as special guests throughout the course to offer interactive demos, input, and teaching tools that help students learn about relevant areas of expertise.
Simultaneously, each student spends another two days per week at a local Orange County restaurant, where they put their training into practice alongside top chefs. Students are exposed to the real world of professional cooking, which serves to reinforce weekly lessons. Cooking techniques, vocabulary, and ingredients leave the classroom and come to life in a working kitchen.
“CulinaryLab serves as the necessary link between up-and-coming chefs and the restaurant community,” explains Ryan Wagner, Chef Director at CulinaryLab. “We are doing something unlike anyone else in the region – we’ve revived culinary education by making it relevant to the times. When they’re not in class, our students are in the kitchen with the area’s most noted chefs, gaining fast-paced, real-world experience not normally available to beginners.”
Local Chef Partners who are active in the Orange County community will serve as mentors as CulinaryLab students go through their mandatory apprenticeship program.