Chef serves up experience, passion

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By Sam Finch | Interim Features Editor

Setting the tone (Allison Perez | Interim Photo Editor)

By Sam Finch | Interim Features Editor

“Table for three? Right this way please.”

A dozen students in white uniforms bustled about the Riverside City College Culinary Academy restaurant setting tables and serving as hosts while others cooked in the kitchen. The air was heavy with the scents of breakfast being prepared and the sound of clinking plates and silverware. Chef Instructor Robert Baradaran strode through the throng, supervising.

“The way the Academy is structured, we have a three-semester program, each semester being fifteen weeks,” said Baradaran, who was hired full-time in April 2004, the same year that the Culinary Academy established in 1996, came under new direction. “We have the freshman semester, and then a junior semester, and then a senior semester.”

“In the first semester, the students are mainly introduced to proper service, waiting, and how to serve food safely,” Baradaran said.

In addition to earning a certificate in safety and sanitation from the National Restaurant Association, freshmen learn the principles of cooking through lecture and begin breakfast cookery with the guidance of an instructor in the second half of the semester.

“During the junior semester, the students study how to make basic stock, basic soups, variations of soups, and variations of basic sauces,” Baradaran said. “They also learn how to fabricate poultry, fish, and some meats. So through the junior semester they learn their basic competencies.”

“When they move up to their senior semester, the students really apply everything they have learned in the first eight months toward the production of the restaurant because we serve breakfast and lunch,” Baradaran said. “With the extra responsibility in the final semester, seniors also compete against one another with their hot food and cold food cooking abilities.”

Proud of the progress of the Culinary Academy, Baradaran reflected on the beginnings of his own career.

“For as long as I remember, I was working in the food industry, since I was 16 years old,” Baradaran said of his teenage relocation from Iran to California. “It began as a way of survival, to pay the bills, and to pay for my schooling. It wasn’t until I was 25 that I realized I wanted to make a career out of this field.”

“After I went to culinary school, I realized just how much love and how much passion I had for this industry,” he said. “I began working in a number of fine dining establishments, I paid attention to details, I kept my knives sharp, and I was always a quick learner.”

From then on, Baradaran moved from California to the Midwest to work in renowned dining establishments such as Tony’s and Cafe De France, both in St. Louis, Missouri.

“When I moved back to California in 2000, I wrote letters of interest to many schools because I wanted to teach, and I began teaching at the Los Angeles Community College District as an adjunct, part-time faculty,” Baradaran said. “Then in 2004 I accepted a full-time position here in Riverside.”

For the first seven years that he served as an instructor, Baradaran taught the senior class, but he has now switched his focus to the freshmen. He remains more excited than ever about the future of the Culinary Academy, especially with the prospect of a new building closer to the Riverside City College campus on the horizon.

“I think it’s going to be very prosperous times for the community, for the college, and the students and instructors alike,” Baradaran said. “I think it’s going to be a great opportunity for all of us to showcase our talents and our art.”

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