Why enter the culinary profession?
“The industry is thriving,” says Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (OCCI) Director and Executive Chef Randy Torres.
The hunt for employees is on. That means there’s great opportunity.
“People are getting degrees and following careers they are passionate about,” Torres said.
Aspiring chefs want the training to expand their career options and where they can go throughout the world. OCCI is well known in the Pacific Northwest as a boutique, intimate program.
OCCI is home to the world champion ice carver, Chef Chris Foltz. Chef Torres is a U.S. Culinary Olympian. He guides SWOCC’s culinary competition team, which has been tops in the nation since 2019.
“Our program gives students a foundation to learn. All of our teaching comes from classical training,” Torres said. “What you learn here in how to make a sauce will be the same thing you learn at the Culinary Institute of America.”
This program pushes students out of their comfort zone to learn more than just how to cook. The 18-month intensive includes specialized training, the opportunity to compete, and two terms of directed-practice work experience.
The culinary field is changing. Thanks to COVID, there’s been an explosion of creativity and innovation. People are hungry for connection with others through food.
There are many pathways for trained chefs, Torres says. Students use skills from culinary school to step into unique careers and dream jobs. Some work in high-end resorts. Others start their own restaurants or food trucks. Some even aspire to become food social media influencers.
“You can look throughout the country at culinary programs, and everyone will have impressive bios. All are valuable,” Torres said. “Our college stands out, because our instructors take personal responsibility to help each of students hone their skills and succeed.”
Meet the Team
Randy Torres, CEC, AAC
American Culinary Federation Cutting Edge Award winner 2021
Our culinary school’s Executive Director Randy Torres is more than a nationally known executive chef and former ACF Chef Educator of the Year. He’s a coach. A mentor. He’s a man who knows there are no limits to hard work, creativity and excelling in the craft and culture of food.
Torres travels the U.S. and internationally talking with other pros in the industry. He competes internationally and brings back innovative ideas and trends to blend into classes. And, then he builds community in the OCCI kitchens, ensuring small classes and individual focus.
“If a student walks in right now and says ‘Hey Chef, I want to practice my cuts. If I have the product, I’m going to say yes. I want to invest care and time into our students. I know it’s going to pay off, no matter how you slice it.”
Shawn Marie Warren
Eight years at the culinary school
Combine a foodie and an educator, and that’s Shawn Marie Warren. As the culinary program’s coordinator of operations, Shawn Marie is the behind-the-scenes person. She schedules equipment repairs, tracks fiscals and keeps track of event logistics. She loves the beautiful setting of the culinary school, which is a great start to every day. Shawn Marie’s top priority, though, is being there for students. She’s great with advising and helping problem-solve. Best of all, she’s a good listener. She makes sure no student ever feels alone.
“I love each and every student and their story. Their favorite dishes to make. Why they got into culinary, where they aspire to go in life and where they land. We are all immersed here in what we like to do.”
Baking and pastry arts specialist, with a focus on coastal food
Chef Gaudette grew up mainly in Coos Bay. She worked her way through culinary school at OCCI as a dual major and took off to explore the greater world. Eventually, she returned to Coos Bay to build her dream life. Now teaching in SWOCC’s nationally renowned culinary school, Gaudette also is developing 40 acres into a farm and event venue.
Cultivation is at the center of her work. Her goal is to get students into the garden. She manages OCCI’s gardens, with work study student help. She also takes her students out to visit farms. They learn to pick produce and harvest local foods throughout the year. In the kitchen, Gaudette teaches the art of food preservation, which helps a chef save money and supports local farms.
She loves watching her students’ progress. “They come in very quiet and unsure of themselves, and grow to have confidence and comfort in the kitchen.”
Laura Williams, CEC
Specializes in culinary, with an
emphasis on fine dining
Chef Williams found her love for cooking at a young age while creating unique dishes for her mother. As a young adult she followed her culinary passion to OCCI where she graduated with honors. While working at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort she joined the USA Culinary Youth Team. Williams competed alongside her team in the World Culinary Olympics in Germany and brought home gold and silver medals. Laura moved to Houston, Texas and began her tenure at The Houston Country Club, focusing on culinary competitions and certifications. Eventually, Williams came back to Oregon as an Executive Chef at Awbrey Glen Golf Club in Bend. The exciting opportunity to teach brought her back to Southwestern, this time as an instructor.
“What I’m hoping to teach my students above all else is that there is so much more to becoming a Chef than just learning how to cook. Each day they learn how to work as a team, but also how to become a strong leader. I hope that I’m able to inspire my students to strive to be the best they can be and never stop learning.”
Chris Foltz, CII, CPIS
Yes, 2021 and 2022 World Ice Art team champion!
Chef Foltz brings 25 years of real-world culinary technique and training into his classes at Southwestern. This Certified Master Ice Sculptor also leads the college’s competitive ice carving adventures.
Foltz’s path to culinary instructor started in an inner-city. He was a young kid headed the wrong way and needing a job. A family hired him to work in their restaurant. He started work in the kitchen and fell in love with it. He found a safe place, a close family, and good food. Foltz stayed in Baltimore for culinary school, then traveled the world cooking excellent food in amazing places: Vegas’ Mon Ami Gabi, the Nassau Yacht Club in the Bahamas. He even studied culinary in Ireland.
“What I really enjoyed in the industry was the intensity of it. Now, I enjoy being able to prepare young people for that reality and give them good tools to use. Hopefully they get past the hardships and into what people love about the career. There’s so much fun, family, art, and just work. It’s a great world. It absorbs you and becomes your life.”
Interested in the culinary program?
Text or Call 541-240-8227
Want to come to public food events at OCCI? Watch our social media for announcements.