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This Trade Tech College Is Cooking Up LA's Next Chefs

Three students in white chef uniforms with white hats show off their dough in a large, cooking lab.
LATTC's student chef's learn yeast-raised breads on a recent morning.
(Jackie Orchard
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This Trade Tech College Is Cooking Up LA's Next Chefs

In a two-story building at the heart of Los Angeles Trade-Technical College, 16 students are hard at work kneading bread and scribbling down meticulous recipes.

The 70,000 square-foot facility opened in 2021 as an investment into a fast-growing market, and as a testament to the college's own long history within the restaurant industry.

LATTC has the oldest continuous culinary arts program in the country, and graduates about 70 students per year. More than 400 students are currently enrolled in over ten classes.

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In the program's new building, professors prepare students in the culinary arts, professional baking, and restaurant management, with an assist from three kitchen labs and three baking labs.

Today baguettes, tomorrow cinnamon rolls

In one of these baking labs, adorned with rows of spotless silver mixing bowls and operation-room-like sterile, silver tables — a wall of glowing-red ovens casts a warm light on Chef-Instructor Colin True. Today he is teaching his baking students how to make yeast-raised breads.

This six-hour baking lab is designed to take the students from start to finish for a complete recipe. Students are hovering over their papers and gathering ingredients and supplies, clinking bowls and chatting around their stations. A large flat-screen TV at the front of the room plays slideshow instructions.

True has a traditional chef’s white coat uniform, complete with the large, white hat that brings to mind Disney’s Ratatouille. (There is nothing to indicate that Chef True is the puppet of an adorable rodent. Yet.)

“I hold some lecture and discussion time for those periods of downtime where those [breads] are fermenting,” True says.

A white man in a white chef's uniform with a tall, white chef's hat stands smiling in front of a large, glowing bakery oven.
LATTC's Chef-Instructor Colin True teaching his Professional Baking students how to make yeast-raised breads.
(Jackie Orchard

Students in True's introductory lab "usually start with yeast breads of various types." And then they really get on a roll, he says: "We'll transition into quick bread. We will spend a few days with a couple of pastries, tarts, pies, cookies, and we'll wrap up with cake making and decorating.”

Those skills can be put to use quickly. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Restaurant Association, while restaurant industry employment hasn't fully rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic, job openings are well above pre-pandemic levels — tens of thousands each month.

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Ready for a new career

True says the culinary industry is hard work, and often involves a fair amount of pressure on newer chefs, but for some of his students this work is nothing compared to what they were doing.

Raul Cevallos enrolled in LATTC’s Culinary Arts Program because he was tired of working manual labor in a warehouse.

“I wanna open my own donut slash bagel shop,” Cevallos says. “Just be my own boss, you know, I just got tired of working at warehouses and just want to work for myself.”

A student with medium-toned brown skin wears a white uniform and hovers over a large, silver mixing bowl while holding a large ball of dough.
Tired of working manual labor jobs, Raul Cevallos says he came to LATTC to learn the skills needed to open his own donut and bagel shop.
(Jackie Orchard
LAist )

Cevallos says he didn’t initially finish high school, and he’s worked a lot of hard labor to make ends meet.

See LATTC’s student chefs in action
  • The third annual Culinary Cup takes place on May 12 at 8:30 a.m., when LATTC’s students will compete against Los Angeles Mission College and Los Angeles Harbor College. Dishes will be judged by professional chefs to see who takes home the coveted Golden Chef’s Hat trophy. This year’s theme is flavors from Southeast Asia.

  • Address:
    Los Angeles Trade-Technical College
    Culinary Arts Building (E3)
    400 W. Washington Blvd.
    Los Angeles

“Like security, unloading trailers and construction work,” he says. “I’ve pretty much done everything.”

Cevallos went back to high school and completed his degree in six months. Then, he enrolled at LATTC to get on a new career track.

“They helped me out with everything,” Cevallos says. “I didn't know how to sign up and they showed me the steps. They told me where to go to get financial aid. Just do it. If you're thinking about getting a career, you're never too old. I thought I was gonna be too old, but it's never too old. Just if you wanna do something, do it.”

Changing careers

With a wink, Veronica Hendrix says she is “60+” years old; she has the energy of a 20-year-old.

Hendrix has always cooked at home for her family. She even won a Barilla pasta contest for her short-rib pasta recipe this year. But she says when she retired from her 28-year career working for the city of L.A. as an emergency manager, she saw it as an opportunity to pursue her passion.

A Black woman smiles at her culinary work station while reviewing a recipe on her phone.
Veronica Hendrix says cooking breaks down barriers, and it's never too late to learn how to make good food.
(Jackie Orchard

“It is a joy and a pleasure to come here every day, to walk into a facility that is so world class,” Hendrix says, gesturing to the bustling bakery lab. “I don't know if the students realize the value of their education here. I certainly do, ‘cuz I've lived a little life.”

The culinary program has placed silver nationally in Culinary Arts for SkillsUSA for the last two years, and they are going to nationals again this year for Baking & Pastry Arts, Culinary Arts, Customer Service, and Restaurant Service. Hendrix says LATTC is a hidden gem.

“The state and the county have invested so much money in these programs here,” Hendrix says. “The training that people get here is just amazing and it leads to gainful employment.”

Hendrix says community colleges are not just for young people, and we need to start tossing out what is seen as a “traditional age” for education. She says no matter your age, don’t be afraid to walk the halls of a college.

“Get over yourself,” Hendrix says. “You bring so much value. I believe I bring a lot of value to the younger students who are not quite sure why they're here or they don't know what they want to do with their lives. I think I'm really an inspiration to them, giving them guidance, encouraging them, motivating them. I know when I was a young woman, I needed that. So I'm here to provide that for them.”

Cost of tuition

Hendrix says with LATTC enrollment costing about $50 dollars per unit, it has never been more affordable to pursue your passion, even if you don’t plan to make a career out of it. She says it’s never a bad idea to know how to make really good food.

“If somebody's having a bad day and you slide a beautiful plate of food in front of them — it just changes their whole mood,” Hendrix says. “It brings people a lot of joy and also food can be very disarming. If you're having a conflict with somebody and you sit down and break bread, you know, barriers get broken.”

The food made in these classes can be purchased in the on-campus bakery cafe, the cafeteria wok and pizza oven, and LATTC’s full-service 100 seat restaurant in the Garden Room.

What questions do you have about local community colleges?
Community colleges act as a gateway for first-generation students and adults seeking a second start. LAist reporter Jackie Orchard wants students — and those who support them — to have the information they need to thrive in the California Community College system.

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