Back then the program was known as Food Service. Instructors typically had degrees in family and consumer science. Michitsch arrived with all of his university notes and textbooks, and created a high school program that mirrored the university-level training he received.
“I’m proud to say that Lorain JVS set that trend,” says Michitsch, who leads culinary instruction for the school’s seniors. “The whole thought of culinary arts has changed. We are recognized more as professionals.”
Today that approach to teaching culinary arts in career-technical schools is common, but the Lorain JVS still stands apart. It’s one of the largest of its kind in the state, with about 130 kids typically enrolled. There’s enough demand that the school offers separate coursework in culinary arts, baking and pastry and hospitality. There are three chefs — including Michitsch — plus a hospitality instructor and academic courses customized for the program, such as applied culinary science and culinary math.
The students run a restaurant called the Buckeye Room Restaurant that’s open to the public for lunch three days a week, serving sandwiches, salads and entrees such as filet mignon, salmon and roasted pork loin.
The success of the JVS culinary arts program was a key factor behind LCCC’s decision to create a degreed culinary arts program, according to Robert Young, dean of LCCC’s business division, which oversees culinary arts.
“With an asset in our backyard that’s that good, why wouldn’t we want to have a program that adds on to their program and keeps students in this region?” asks Young.
There was a bit of natural defensiveness in early talks between administrations at JVS and LCCC, he says — a worry that growing enrollment at LCCC would pull down enrollment in the culinary program at JVS.
“I told them, we want to do the exact opposite,” says Young. “We want your program to have 300 kids in it so 100 of them will come here.”
A articulation agreement between the two schools allows JVS grads with two years of culinary training to earn up to 35 college credits at LCCC, enabling them to earn an associate’s degree in culinary arts in just one year.
In the past, JVS students who wanted to continue their culinary education would go on to schools like Culinary Institute of America, Johnson & Wales University or the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
“We were always sending about 50 to 60 percent of our students out of state,” says Michitsch. “Last year about 75 percent of our students went to LCCC, and this year will probably be very similar.”
Eric Petrus, LCCC’s culinary program director and the college’s executive chef, works closely with Michitsch to keep the two programs aligned.
“Our working relationship is phenomenal,” says Mishitsch. “I don’t know of any other county in Ohio that can say that.”