Inland Northwest Culinary Academy
At the Inland Northwest Culinary Academy at Spokane Community College (SCC), students learn the business and cooking skills they need to succeed in the food service industry. Our Washington Grown team visited the academy during a lunchtime pop-up, where student chefs worked at food stations in front of a crowd of hungry customers, who lined up to get a taste of dishes like salmon curry, Kung Pao chicken, fried rice, or lettuce wraps.
How does the pop-up work?
The academy hosts frequent pop-up restaurants, and the concept for this event, which was held during international week, was a food festival focusing on cuisines from a different part of the world, largely Asia. Everything was led by the student chefs, who worked at action stations, preparing the food in front of the customers and chatting with them. “Customers have to be tolerant, patient,” said Laurent Zirotti, famed chef and frequent Washington Grown contributor, who is an instructor at the academy. “They have to be understanding that it’s not like a restaurant, where your expectations are very high.”
So how was the food?
Diners raved about the quality of the food served at the event. “They always do amazing food,” said one attendee. “It’s really affordable, and then you’re helping students learn, so it’s like a win-win.” He looked down at the lettuce wrap in his hands. “I would have these every day if I could.”
What do students learn at the culinary academy?
The Inland Northwest Culinary Academy has a two-year curriculum broken into six sections — Starting Out; Basic Kitchen; Advanced Kitchen; Pastries; and Dining Area. There are six instructors, including Zirotti, and 30 students are admitted every fall, winter, and spring.
What do students say about the program?
One student chef, Natalie, said she grew up in a family that cooked really plain food, and she wanted to develop her cooking skills. “It’s definitely like being on one of those cooking shows,” she said. “Every test or anything, you get anxious; you’re waiting for what the chef says. It’s awesome."
What happens after students graduate?
According to the SCC website, the program has a 100% job placement rate, so student chefs are basically guaranteed a job in a hotel, restaurant, or other food service venue when they graduate. If you ask us, those are some delicious odds.