Patti Lang loves cooking for every diet. She’s been a chef instructor at McFatter Technical College’s School of Culinary Arts for over a decade. But before that she was the spa chef at Weston’s Bonaventure Resort & Spa for 13 years, where she cooked healthy meals for spa guests.
“It is especially rewarding when someone has a specific dietary need and I can teach them how to cook and plan meals to enjoy eating flavorful foods and possibly improve their health,” Lang said.
Now, she’ll be teaching her students how to do the same with the school’s new plant-based program.
On Aug. 21, the school will begin its inaugural Culinary Vegetarian and Plant-Based program, offering two segments — Vegetarian Food Preparation and Vegetarian Restaurant Cooking. It is a six-month program that awards a certificate of completion and an industry credential.
Lang, who wrote and submitted the curriculum for state approval within the public school system, believes it’s the first of it’s kind — not just in Broward County, but in Florida.
“The course is designed to instruct students in all areas to produce nutritionally balanced whole food in today’s modern kitchen,” Lang said. “Students will learn food cost control and recipe writing and menu development which will come into play for their final plant-based restaurant menu project.”
It will run from Monday through Thursdays, 4:30 to 10 p.m., and includes a mix of online and hands-on sessions in which students will prepare items ranging from nut milks, to plant-based stocks, baked goods and vegan pastas.
It’s open to anyone, according to Lang, but she warns that it is rigorous — complete with quizzes and homework.
“Anyone off the street can take the program, even meat-eaters,” she said. “Everyone in my vegetarian summer class for the home cook were meat-eaters who wanted to learn how to start incorporating more vegetables and whole grains into their diet to improve their health.”
The summer class Lang referred to was part of the technical center’s Culinary Creations feature — a weekly night class that offered an introduction to plant-based cooking.
“The Plant Based Vegetarian Cooking course was introduced to have the students test the waters before diving into a full-time Culinary Vegetarian and Plant Based Speciality,” Office of Admissions Director Franzie Williams said.
The school also offers Culinary Creations courses for baking bread or pastries. The fee is $83 and the courses will be offered again in the summer of 2018.
Until then, registration is currently open for the Culinary Vegetarian and Plant-Based program. The cost of tuition for Florida residents including text books and certification exams is $2,214.69 according to the course brochure.
“McFatter Technical College is a very affordable way for students to get an excellent education in a short amount of time,” Lang said. “This course prepares students for employment in the plant-based food industry and personally can be a catalyst to a healthier lifestyle as well.”
She said the timing of this course is a reflection of current restaurant trends.
“Vegan and vegetarian lifestyles are growing in popularity as the public becomes aware of various health issues which can be prevented or improved by consuming a plant-based diet, not to mention that it is beneficial to our planet,” she said. “Trendy plant-based restaurants are opening all around the country and it’s catching in in Miami and Fort Lauderdale as well.”
According to HappyCow — a search engine for vegetarian and vegan restaurants — there are 18 vegan or vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Fort Lauderdale and 47 in Miami.
“These restaurants need professionally trained cooks, and that is why we felt the need to start this program,” Lang said. “No other local culinary program offers anything this in-depth pertaining to plant-based.”
For additional information on McFatter Technical Center’s Culinary Vegetarian and Plant-Based course, contact the Office of Admissions at 754-321-5700.