Making a career out of a passion

By Brooklyn Pinkham

The following were remarks made at the release of “Education Evolving: Maine’s Plan for Putting Learners First” on Jan. 17, 2012, at the Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta.

Brooklyn Pinkham delivers remarks at a podium during the release of Maine's strategic education plan.
Brooklyn Pinkham

When I was a junior in high school, I was given the choice to take a Capital Area Technical Center (CATC) class. I had been waiting since I was a freshman, when I first heard about CATC. I was so excited to start my first day. I was looking at all the classes, and one of them jumped out at me: culinary arts.

I always loved to cook, and thought I knew a little bit about it. So I decided I would take the class, wanting to make a career out of it, not knowing if I would or not.

In CATC, they treat us like employees, not 16-, 17- and 18-year-old kids.

One thing I like about CATC is SkillsUSA. SkillsUSA is a competition. First, you compete as locals, which is at CATC or any other vocational school that’s participating. If you win, you move onto Bangor. In Bangor, you compete against other vocational schools in Maine. If you win Bangor, you move onto Kansas City, which is against other schools in the nation.

I went to Bangor last year, but I didn’t make it to Kansas City.

I believe attending CATC has given me a leg up on all the other kids trying to get jobs. I have gotten experience that has helped me get those jobs. It helped me prepare for the real world. It has also helped me learn to work with people I don’t always like.

In the past year, I have been hired in two kitchens, and I believe I got those jobs because of the experience and knowledge I’ve learned at CATC. I owe my education and experience to my teachers: Chefs Charles Izzi and Valerie Arbour.

Since being in this program, I have met many interesting people, some of them being chefs. Some of those chefs I’ve had the chance to work with.

Chef Michael is the “Taste of Home” chef. I worked with him at the Augusta Civic Center in September doing the “Taste of Home” foods show, a new and different experience.

Last year, I worked with Chef Anthony. Chef Anthony and I did our first really big catering job of 200 people. I also assisted in the PFG NorthCenter Food Show last spring. Most recently, I helped with the Dempsey Challenge alongside 40 other chefs and students.

Taking culinary arts has made me want to make a career out of it. I love what I’ve been doing for the past two years and want to do it for the rest of my life. So I applied to two culinary colleges: Johnson and Wales and Culinary Institute of America.

I applied to both not knowing if I’d get accepted to one. Little did I know, I’d get accepted to both. These schools are the best in the country.

I’ve decided I will attend the Culinary Institute of America. Having an older cousin who has already been through the school, I think it would be a great opportunity for my future.

My ultimate goal is to appear on Food Network, but I’ll settle for working in a restaurant the rest of my life.

Brooklyn Pinkham, of Augusta, is a second-year culinary arts student at Capital Area Technical Center in Augusta.

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