Cerritos College faculty member Chef Michael Pierini received the California Community College Association for Occupational Education (CCCAOE) 2006 Excellence in Teaching Award on March 15 at the organization’s spring conference in San Francisco. As department chair and an instructor in Cerritos College’s culinary arts program, Pierini teaches students both the theory and practical application of the skills needed in the food industry.
“Throughout the growth of the culinary arts program, Michael has poured into his students all of his knowledge and love of cooking, which has inspired and encouraged the students to do their best,” said Instructional Dean of Health Occupations Jenine Nolan, who nominated Pierini for the award
Michael Pierini was hired to revitalize a program that was on its deathbed. In 1995, he began teaching baking to a group of six students enrolled in the major. Within four years, the program was busting at the seams with inadequate space in the kitchen to accommodate the program which had grown to 80 students. In 2003, he took on modernization of the chef’s program and again student participation numbers began to soar. The chef program grew from approximately 40 students to 75 students in a short two years. Michael reoriented these programs to operate as production kitchens in resort, club, and five-star hotel settings. He changed the curriculum, upgraded the facility, and built on strong industry ties. Today, every pot in the kitchen is stirring and the campus buzz continues to increase. The student run cafeteria is a destination, an experience in fine dining. Sophisticated dishes with thoughtful presentation have replaced mundane offerings.
The professional baking and pastry program’s partnerships with industry leaders offer students excellent connections to employment opportunities with local businesses. Relationships have been developed with Disneyland and the Ritz Carlton among others. The work experience component of the program provides resume-building experience, and the hands-on approach of the program allows students gain real work skills as they operate the Cerritos College Café, which serves lunch and breakfast daily.
As Pierini oversees the Café, he teaches his students to make everything from scratch without the use of recipes. He trains the future chefs to cook all types of cuisine and not just the trends, such as the low-carb craze. He prepares students for production kitchen work in high-end restaurants and resorts.
“Michael exemplifies the difference a faculty member can make,” said Executive Dean of Community, Industry, and Technology Education Nick Kremer, who also nominated Pierini. “He makes Cerritos program graduates in demand.”
The Campus Connection Online, March 20, 2006