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High School Students visit VGCC Culinary program

Students in the Culinary Arts program at Northern Vance High School got a taste of the next level of education in their field when they visited Vance-Granville Community College’s Culinary Technology program on Nov. 13.

VGCC’s two-year degree program, based at the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford, prepares students for entry-level professional positions in restaurants, hotels, catering operations, health-care facilities, schools and other institutions. Chef Ross Ragonese, head of the VGCC Culinary program, told the high school students about what the college offers. “There are many opportunities and paths available through the program, and it’s not limited to being a chef,” Ragonese said. “It’s a demanding but profitable field. There’s always demand, because everybody in the world needs to eat. And the more you know, the more you’re worth as a professional.” Students also heard from VGCC Dean of Business & Applied Technologies Bobby Van Brunt and from academic advisor Herbert Washington. Ragonese then led students on a tour of the kitchen, where they observed students in the Baking I class preparing pastries such as bear claws and beggars’ purses. They also sampled cinnamon buns the VGCC students had produced.

The group of high school juniors and seniors, all of whom are in their second year of culinary classes under the instruction of Julie Sokol, had the opportunity to ask questions of Ragonese and several VGCC students. NVHS students wanted to know about the college students’ future plans, why they chose to go into the profession and the challenges of training in the kitchen. “When our students graduate, they are not yet chefs, but they are trained and on their way to becoming chef,” Ragonese pointed out. “There are no boundaries as far as opportunity in this profession, for both men and women.” He touched on the combination of science, art and passion that goes into cooking. Ragonese said that the VGCC program currently has 42 students, with approximately ten set to graduate next May.

Sokol said that the high school students benefit from classes that are practical and out of the ordinary, while also learning to take on the responsibilities involved in running a culinary operation. Students operate a café at Northern Vance that is open to the public for lunch once a week, similar to The Vanguard Café operated by VGCC students. Sokol thanked Ragonese for his hospitality and expressed hope that the two schools can work together closely in the future.

For more information about the Culinary program , call Chef Ross Ragonese at (919) 690-0312.

Above: F rom left, Chef Ross Ragonese of Vance-Granville Community College introduces Culinary Technology students Roy Talley of Warren County, Fenesha Rucker of Louisburg and Sarah Prenatt of Youngsville to talk with students from Northern Vance High School who were visiting the college’s Culinary facility at the Masonic Home for Children in Oxford. (VGCC photo)