Mary Beth Sallee
Reporter, Hart County News-Herald
The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Pathways at Caverna High School (CHS) falls under the Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) career pathway options. Both of these pathways encompass the study of foods, nutrition, and food preparation. But for CHS students, it’s much, much more than that.
According to Chef Jason Lindsey, teacher for the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Pathway Studies at CHS, unlike the Home Economics courses offered in the past, today’s Culinary Arts and Hospitality Pathways are designed to guide students toward careers.
Through such pathways, CHS students gain skills to allow them to begin a career in the culinary arts and hospitality industry. This industry is one of the largest employers in the United States, second only to the federal government.
“Instead of home management being the goal in the past, today we focus on industry level competencies and expectations for students wanting to work in the hospitality and food service industry,” Lindsey said. “We study the history of Culinary Arts, professionalism, industry skills, and develop industry level techniques for food preparation and management. We study the multiple segments of the Hospitality Industry and the numerous career opportunities within it.”
Lindsey brings not only his teaching skills to CHS, but also experience and talent. Lindsey attended Sullivan University’s Culinary and Baking and Pastry Arts programs and earned his degree from Bowling Green Technical College’s (now SKYCTC) Culinary Arts program. He is a Certified Executive Chef (CEC) and a Certified Culinary Administrator (CCA) with the American Culinary Federation. Lindsey also attained his ManageFirst Credential from the National Restaurant Association’s Educational Foundation with certifications in Controlling Food Service Costs, Customer Service, Managerial Accounting, Human Resources Management and Supervision, Hospitality and Restaurant Management, and ServSafe Manager. He is also a ServSafe Manager Instructor and Examination Proctor.
Lindsey’s interest in Culinary Arts began at a young age.
“I spent a lot of time with my grandparents on the weekends,” Lindsey recalled. “I would go after school on Fridays and stay the night, then watch the Saturday morning cartoons. After the cartoons had finished, my grandmother would switch the channel to usually KET/PBS stations and cooking shows would be on.”
Justin Wilson, The Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr, The Frugal Gourmet with Jeff Smith, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Martin Yan, and many others would educate Lindsey and his grandmother about foods from around the world.
“I always enjoyed watching these shows with my grandmother, and when they were over we would go into the kitchen and try to replicate what we could with what we had on hand,” Lindsey said. “Looking back, it was almost like an educational journey as well. Often times, we had nothing close to what was used on the shows, yet my grandmother taught me how to take what you have and create something of your own. She helped me to develop the ability to think outside of the box and gave me the freedom to create. It was here that I fell in love with cooking and cooking for others. It gave me an outlet to be creative and share what I created with others.”
After attending Sullivan University, Lindsey returned to Bowling Green where he owned and managed different operations within the area. He has also worked as the Executive Chef and Dining Hall Manager for The Center for Courageous Kids in Scottsville, as well as an instructor with Southcentral Kentucky Community & Technical College (SKYCTC).
“I had always wanted the opportunity to teach and share with others what I had learned, and SKYCTC gave me that opportunity,” Lindsey said. “I worked my way up to Assistant Professor and Program Coordinator of SKYCTC’s Culinary Arts program before leaving.”
In early 2020, Lindsey received a call to come to Caverna High School to discuss teaching the Culinary and Hospitality Pathways. He accepted the position, bringing with him over 26 years of food service industry experience.
“In the beginning, students were surprised that these were not just cook-and-eat courses, but something that would open them up to a completely new world of exploration and learning experiences,” Lindsey said. “For the ones that have seen it through, they have truly flourished! They look forward to coming to classes, especially labs, because we cook and eat our projects. However, they truly get excited about learning the different cooking styles, methods, and gaining experience not only with kitchen tasks, but developing skills that are going to stay with them for the rest of their lives. They are learning real world stuff here, not just cooking and eating. Professionalism, ethics, soft skills, developing a strong work ethic, creativity, and integrity are all a part of these courses, and the students are taking to it like a fish to water and loving it!”
In addition to being taught life skills, students who participate in the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Pathways have the opportunity to become members of the high school’s Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Club.
“In FCCLA, students have chances to compete in events at the local, state and national levels geared towards their pathway(s), earn scholarships, explore career pathways, have networking opportunities with other students, and gain real world skills and experiences,” Lindsey said. “Students also have the opportunity to develop and operate fundraisers to earn funding for FCCLA events and field trips.”
The Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies Pathways has also allowed students to participate in community events.
“Students have participated in the Christmas on the Square event in Cave City, making and handing out cookies and hot chocolate for the patrons of the event,” Lindsey said. “Catering in-house events have included the Veterans’ Day Luncheon, School Board Christmas dinner, and most recently the Kiwanis Governors Dinner.”
Lindsey stated that the feedback and support from the community has been tremendous.
“The events we have done so far and our Facebook page have really given our program the opportunity to be seen by so many. It has allowed us to let the community know what we are all about,” Lindsey explained. “Through this medium of communication, we now have alumni from Caverna High School that work in the hospitality and food industry as well as other professionals in industry wanting to come to talk to our students and demonstrate cooking techniques or have invited our students to come tour their operations and facilities from across the region and state.”
Currently, there are approximately 40 students enrolled in the Culinary and Hospitality Pathways courses at Caverna. This is around 20% of the total high school population.
Lindsey stated that he is proud to see his students succeed in these courses.
“For me, it’s when students have the “aha” moments, when everything we have been discussing comes together, and you can actually see the learning experience work by the light in their eyes and the smiles on their face, when you can actually see their self-confidence grow right before your very eyes when they master a technique or take the first bite of something they have never tried before and have prepared themselves,” Lindsey said. “It is then you know you have reached them and they, too, realize that hard work and determination really does pay off. Then they are hooked! They keep coming back and building on their experiences and abilities, and this begins to turn things around in their attitude, approach to problem solving, work ethic, and so many other areas not just in school but outside of school, too.”
Having the opportunity to teach at CHS, Lindsey stated, has truly been a blessing.
“These kids will capture your heart and make you want to give them your best every day,” Lindsey said. “I appreciate the administrators and school board members that share the vision of what this program can be and are willing to support the efforts in accomplishing that goal. The support of the community has been overwhelming, and I look forward to being a part of the Caverna family for years to come.”
For additional information or to follow the hard work and successes of these students and classes, visit the Caverna High School Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies page on Facebook.