Aspiring chefs whirl around the industrial-size kitchen classroom in clean white threads, cooking up a mouth-watering array of Northern African and Moroccan dishes like Mtuzi Wa Samaki (fish in coconut curry), homemade merguez sausage, and Ghanaian chicken-and-peanut stew.
This intricate dance of chopping, stirring, sautéing, and learning is conducted by Chef Charlie Fredericks, who is clearly delighted to be orchestrating the SBCC class called “Modern Food: Style, Design, Theory, and Production.” Students create dishes from a different country every week — and once the global-themed feast is complete, they all share a meal together.
“It’s so much fun,” said Fredericks, a graduate of the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, who has worked at restaurants in San Francisco, the Caribbean, Europe, and Napa before returning home to open bouchon in Santa Barbara in 1998. “This is definitely my favorite time,” he said. “It’s pretty much a Disneyland class.”
Indeed, it’s a small world after all, and the Culinary Arts students seem to be enjoying the ride. “I really enjoy learning about the different countries and their different ways of cooking and different spices and how they have a connection to their culture,” said Claudia Garcia, a returning student who also has a son and a daughter enrolled at SBCC.
The Chinese cooking lesson had a special resonance for Ava Engle, who grew up in Carpinteria and is attending the culinary school as part of the SBCC Promise Program, which provides the region’s high school graduates with the opportunity to attend for two years, free of charge. “I was actually adopted in China,” explained Engle, “and we made the Chinese food on my adoption day, just coincidentally, so that was great. I was kind of unfamiliar with the dishes we made, so it was fun to learn about them.”
Alejandro Hernandez, a 2019 graduate of the SBCC School of Extended Learning Bilingual GED Program, is another one of 19 students enrolled in the Promise who’s attending the School of Culinary Arts and Hotel Management Program this semester. Hernandez has supported himself and his family by working full-time at a Vietnamese restaurant for many years. He says the Promise — which covers enrollment costs and all required fees, books, and supplies for two years — is a great opportunity for him to bring a global perspective to combine with his family culinary roots from Guerrero, Mexico. “Hopefully, I’ll open my own restaurant in the future,” Hernandez said.
“I’d love to work in a hotel and travel internationally,” said Miriam Martinez, another aspiring chef. “The Modern Foods is definitely my favorite class. I love the opportunity to taste — and cook — food from every country.”