TJC Culinary Arts professor/director Matson named Texas Chef of the Year

Larry Matson, professor and director of the Tyler Junior College Culinary Arts program, has been named Chef of the Year by the Texas Chefs Association (TCA).

“I was nominated once before, about 15 years ago when I was in Dallas, but this is my first time to win it,” Matson said. “I’m very grateful to have been nominated and to have been presented the award by Chef Rick Neal of Tyler.”

In addition to being active in TCA programs, Matson said nominees are judged based on 1) demonstration of the highest standards of culinary skills, 2) advancing the cuisine of America, and 3) giving back to the profession through the development of students and apprentices.

“One of the things I do is serve as a judge for the [U.S. Armed Forces’ Joint Culinary Training Exercise] in Fort Lee, Virginia, which is probably the largest culinary competition in the U.S.,” he said. “I’m also a practical examiner for certification; so, when people become certified at different culinary levels, they have to submit paperwork, do a written test and do a cooking test. I do a lot of things like that.”

He continued, “It’s just about trying to promote the profession. More than anything, it’s mentoring people and trying to help them grow, whether they’re students just starting out or people who are trying to grow in their career.”

Matson joined TJC in October 2019 as director of the new culinary arts program, which offers an associate degree and certificates of proficiency for students interested in the food service industry.

TJC’s Associate of Applied Science degree in culinary arts prepares students for entry-level restaurant management positions.

Located in a state-of-the-art facility in George W. Pirtle Technology Center on the TJC main campus, the program is fully equipped with a commercial kitchen and dining area where students can develop their craft in a real restaurant setting.

Students learn culinary and baking skills as well as management theories, practices and strategies. Much of their time is spent working in a culinary arts lab learning traditional, current, American and international cooking techniques as well as inventory management and purchasing.

A basic culinary certificate is for students to learn basic techniques in food safety, kitchen equipment and cooking. These courses offer fundamental principles of knife- and food-handling as well as nutrition and menu management. 

Students earning this certificate are prepared for entry-level positions in various types of kitchens.

A pastry arts certificate is available for individuals interested in the professional baking industry. Students learn the fundamentals of baking and cake decorating as well as food safety. Graduates are prepared for entry-level positions in the baking/pastry industry.

For more information, go to TJC.edu/culinary.

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