The JNA Institute of Culinary Arts has graduated more than 2,000 students over the last 26 years.
Stephanie DeLeeuw doesn’t expect that number to stop growing anytime soon.
“The restaurant business never dies,” DeLeeuw, the culinary school’s administrator said. “The program is always growing.”
Located at 1212 S. Broad St. in Point Breeze, students learn the fundamentals of food preparation, service and nutrition.
“The best thing about this school is that it teaches you the basics that any student would need to survive in the kitchen,” DeLeeuw said.
The school currently has 75 students enrolled. Two programs of study are offered – food service training and restaurant management. Students can earn a diploma in both programs, and an associate degree in culinary arts.
“I think I would have to tell [current students] to just take advantage of every opportunity available,” Tamara Josey, a JNA alumna, said.
“Going to culinary school kind of prepared me better as far as how to be in the kitchen,” she added. “It made a lot of changes in my life.”
For Josey, who graduated from JNA in 2001 and is now the owner of a catering company, the journey toward her associate degree was not an easy one. The program is condensed into 30 to 60 weeks of instruction – depending on which program the student selects. Classes run more than eight hours a day, Monday through Friday.
“I wasn’t expecting all of the facets like having to learn all the French terms and having to do eight hours a day of class,” Josey said. “So those parts were an adjustment for me.”
Sean McMonagle, a JNA instructor and alumnus, agreed that the class schedule could be difficult for students.
“I mean we’re talking hands-on,” McMonagle said. “We’re talking almost back to high school education, and that’s hard for everybody.”
The 2006 graduate is the instructor for a class focused on baking, nutrition and food costs.
“Well I know from my class [students] certainly take a real-life perspective from it,” he said. “They’re getting a taste of what some may call the real world, whatever that is.”
McMonagle has high hopes for the future of JNA.
“I’m hoping it becomes the opposite of where it is now,” he said. “Where it’s not so, ‘Oh, you went to JNA?’ And an employer is uncertain. To, ‘You went to JNA? Sure, you’re hired.’ That’s kind of what I want the world to see.”
– Text, images and video by Dustin Wingate.