Your Food Future Starts Here!

Your Food Future Starts Here!

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

Top Chef

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.”

The Cheerleader

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.”

The Cultivator

Chelsea Gaudette

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.”

Teacher Mentor

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.”

The Artist

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


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A delicious life

A delicious life

OCCI alum is living the culinary dream

It’s been a long and winding road for Justin Wolf to reach the status of Executive Chef. Born and raised in Medford, Oregon, cooking was always a big part of his family and life. Even his senior project in high school involved cooking, teaching kids how to help with dinner. And as long as we’re mentioning family, Justin’s father, Michael works at the SWOCC Curry campus! 

Because his culinary journey began at Oregon Coast Culinary Institute (OCCI), graduating with honors in 2011 at age 19, we were very interested in ‘the rest of the story’. We caught up with Chef Wolf at his new gig, Executive Chef for Partake in Grants Pass. He had just finished baking the bread for the day and had a short break before preparations for the evening’s delicacies began.

OCCI: So first, tell us about the new restaurant, Partake Shop & Lounge.

Wolf: I’m so excited about Partake. It’s different. It’s not your average restaurant, lounge, or shop. It’s a bit of all three. We’re doing an upscale, small plate menu in the lounge, along with signature cocktails. I’m in charge of developing the menu and it’s constantly evolving. 

We also have an international bottle shop and wine tasting room on the premises. And in case that’s not enough to temp you, we house an artisan cheese shop too – which sells a lot more than just cheese. I bake the bread daily for the lounge and the cheese shop. And to top it off we’re located in a gorgeous historic building in downtown Grants Pass. We opened our doors on November 23, 2021.

OCCI: We checked out the menu on the website. It looks amazing. So now . . . let’s back up a bit and talk about the start of your career. Tell us what factors influenced your choice to come to OCCI for your culinary training.

Wolf: I love the coast, crabbing, fishing, the outdoors, the lake. As a family we used to visit the coast a lot when I was a kid. I still come as much as possible with my wife. And I love cooking with seafood so OCCI’s location was great for that. Being from out of the area, I needed to live on campus which ended up saving me a lot of money. I was looking for the most cost-effective culinary training. It was perfect, close enough to home, not too close, not too far away.

OCCI: Can you share something important that you learned at OCCI that you draw on now in your work?

Wolf: I remember distinctly my Interpersonal Communication class. That class proved invaluable when it comes to working in a kitchen with a lot of different people. My time at OCCI also taught me how to run an efficient kitchen.

OCCI: Do you remember a particular experience you had while at OCCI that really had an impact on you?

Wolf: One of the concepts that I was exposed to at OCCI that has really influenced my work is the farm-to-table principle. I’m committed to local, sustainable, and renewable practices. I also learned about the French sous vide technique of cooking. It’s a method where food is sealed in a pouch and then heated in a water bath. I saw it first demonstrated the day I toured OCCI. I’m obsessed with it and use it all the time.

OCCI: Chef Randy Torres was your instructor. What do you remember about Chef Torres?

Wolf: Chef Torres is very knowledgeable and approachable. I was intimidated by him at first because of his vast and impressive experience. But when you get to know him, he’s great.

OCCI: What was living in student housing like?

Wolf: Living on campus was fun. I made some great friends I still stay in contact with. I used to bring home leftovers and trade with the baking and pastry students that lived upstairs.

OCCI: Why would you recommend OCCI to people considering a career in the culinary arts?

Wolf: It’s an exceptional place! Especially for young people, who need to get a good base foundation of culinary skills.

OCCI: Now the experienced sage gets to pass on some advice to the younger set interested in a culinary career . . . 

Wolf: It took a lot of trial and error for me to get where I am today. I wasn’t afraid to leave a situation if I wasn’t growing. If it’s not the right fit, it’s time to go. Just look at my resume. I’ve worked at a lot of places and learned something different from each experience.

And . . . don’t take no for an answer when you find a restaurant you want to work at.

Does a delicious career in the culinary world sound good to you? Contact us today at 541-888-7309.


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