Katy ISD's Old Town Bistro


    Hands-on culinary arts training for Katy ISD students.

    By Shetye Cypher | KATY MAGAZINE, September 2017 Select Photography by Sara Isola

    Katy ISD has many intelligent and talented students, but those who attend Miller Career & Technology Center (MCTC) are able to really show off their gifts. The culinary arts students who also work and cook for the Old Town Bistro, have been performing above and beyond what is expected of them. If you haven’t had a chance to taste the lunch prepared at the Bistro, you’re missing out.

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    Cooking up Greatness

    Joann Loomis, a senior at Taylor High School, won first place in Culinary Arts at SkillsUSA State and represented Texas at Nationals in June. She completed a rigorous five-hour competition where she demonstrated her knife and cooking skills, preparing four separate dishes: a soup, salad, and two entrees. Loomis had only two butane burners to prepare her menu items.

    “There are so many things that I like about the Bistro. When I started as a junior, the environment was intimidating, but when I met Chef Gumm she transformed the Bistro for me. It has become the favorite part of my day. We get to do the really fun stuff - we cook, experiment, and deal with real customers,” shares Loomis. “For me, the Bistro represents a beginning of a journey and from my perspective, there is nowhere else I would rather be while I explore my culinary creativity.”

    A Recipe for Success

    Chef Chelsea Gumm has always wanted to be a part of the restaurant business and has enjoyed cooking for years. This passion can be seen through her work with the students.

    “I began working in restaurants in high school and fell in love with the business. I was eager to learn all about the business so I cross-trained in as many positions as I could,” says Gumm. After graduating from University of Houston, she worked at Outback Steakhouse where the manager told her about a position that would allow her to teach kids how to cook and run a restaurant. She began her teaching career at Westside High School and came to MCTC in 2015.

    Chef Gumm was named Houston Restaurant Association’s Educator of the Year and received a Golden Fork at an awards gala. “I was nominated for the Golden Fork Award by several colleagues, then the Greater Houston Restaurant Association (GHRA) Education Board reviewed all nominees and voted on who they thought was the best choice.”

    “This program has been an absolutely essential part of my development as a student and member of the culinary industry.”

    - Hector Gonzalez, Jr., MRHS senior

    Marinating Minds

    Chef Gumm writes the menu to meet certain skill assessments. It rotates every six weeks and is modified based on successful sales. The Bistro, is open most Wednesdays and Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., and also caters. They take pre-orders for baked goods such as cakes, cookies, and cupcakes.

    A small garden where seasonal vegetables and herbs are grown all years is currently maintained by staff with some student assistance. Care of the garden will be more fully incorporated into the curriculum in the future.

    “The Old Town Bistro program at Miller is a great place to learn new ways to run a restaurant. Chef Gumm helps teach us the dos and don’ts of the restaurant industry from her experience on the job. I recommend taking the class if you have the chance, it has taught me so much that I will take with me,” says Seven Lakes High School senior Cody Coonz.

    Garnishing the Future

    Old Town Bistro, a restaurant located at MCTC, is reserved for students taking Practicum in Culinary Arts. Students who successfully complete Culinary Arts are eligible to participate.

    “The amount of things I have learned from working at the Old Town Bistro this year has been incredible. I have not only expanded my skill set, but I have grown into a valued member of society and in the workplace. This program has been an absolutely essential part of my development as a student and member of the culinary industry,” says Morton Ranch High School senior Hector Gonzalez, Jr.

    The Bistro is designed to give students hands-on experience in both food preparation and operation of a restaurant. Students are responsible for the preparation of all food served in the Bistro. They prep, cook, take orders, wait tables, wash dishes, and plate food. Essentially they do all the work that is done in a traditional restaurant, but on a smaller scale.

    “My time at the Bistro has been amazing. I get to learn different positions in a restaurant so it will help me later on in the future,” gushes Seven Lakes High School senior Enrique Alas. “We are all like a big family who loves to cook.”

    SKILLS LEARNED AT THE CULINARY ARTS PROGRAM AT MCTC:

    • Hands-on practice in all areas of food production

    • Restaurant management

    • ServSafe training

    • Knife skills

    • Industry-specific vocabulary

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