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2018 March 16 - 04:11 pm

Cooking Up Careers for Cops, Cooks

Chefs-In-Training Serve Up Meals for Police Recruits


DECATUR, Ill. (AP) — As police recruits from across the state train on the city’s south side, they’re providing a practical education in catering for culinary students at Richland Community College.

Three times a day, students and staff from Richland prepare meals for the trainees and take them to the Macon County Law Enforcement Training Center. The menu includes French toast and scrambled eggs, turkey sandwiches, tacos and meatloaf — 180 meals a day for the most recent class.

In addition to making the meals, students have to plan how to move food across the city and prepare it for service at the facility along U.S. 51 near Grove Road.

“It’s a new way to get more experience for our students, and that’s really what it’s all about,” said Brian Tucker, director of the Culinary Arts program.

Eighty to 100 cadets are slated to train in 12- to 14-week sessions at the facility, which is owned by the Illinois Law Enforcement and Training Standards Board but operated and maintained by Richland.

The center opened last fall, funded by a $15 million donation from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation. Buffett, who was named Macon County sheriff in September by retiring Sheriff Thomas Schneider, has provided extensive financial support to law enforcement agencies in both Illinois and Arizona in recent years.

The five-acre site includes a two-story dormitory, training building and outside track. It contains multiple classrooms, scenario-based training rooms, a physical skills and exercise room, indoor firing range, administrative offices and a conference room.

Buffett said the plan was always to have food catered at the facility, rather than building and staffing a full kitchen, because the number of students expected in the first few years did not justify the extra dollars and expense.

Training center Commander Tad Williams said it was clear early on that a partnership with Richland made sense. “It’s been a great relationship,” Williams said. “(Tucker) has been top-notch.”

Williams said the cost of catering is covered through tuition paid by those who attend classes at the training center, though he would not provide a dollar amount. Greg Florian, Richland’s vice president of finance and administration, said he did not have an exact dollar amount, but said it ends in “a wash” for the college and does not affect its budget.

About a dozen people work in the Richland kitchen, Tucker said. About half of them are students, and roughly a quarter focus on catering.

Feeding dozens of hungry police cadets also makes for a good class project. Last year, a class on making soup expanded to let the students decide what kind would soup the training center would need, and ultimately the soup was added to the menu.

Catering for a regular group presents different challenges than serving food at Richland’s cafeteria or its on-campus restaurant, Bistro Five Thirty Seven. Tucker said his students and staff now have to strategize about what can be transported without losing quality and rotate a menu when serving the same people over an extended period of time.

The varied experience gives Tucker’s students another advantage when they seek jobs in the field, he said.

“We’re getting more experience for the students,” he said, “so when they get out of here, they’ve seen a lot of different things and they have different opportunities to use the skills they’ve learned.”

Information from: Herald & Review, http://www.herald-review.com

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