COLUMBUS, Miss. – Fourteen years ago, Adam Williams took his first culinary class on the campus of Mississippi University for Women as a student of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science.
The Pearl resident was back on campus this summer attending the ProStart Institute offered by The W’s Culinary Arts Institute. The purpose of the week-long institute was to provide educators with a forum to learn cutting-edge skills, which they can then take back to the classroom.
ProStart is the two-year career-building program for high school students who are interested in culinary arts and foodservice management.
Williams is entering his second year of teaching high school sophomores, juniors and seniors at the Clinton High School Career Complex. This fall, Williams becomes a student himself, the first person to enroll in The W’s bachelor of technology program with an emphasis in culinary arts, a partnership with Hinds Community College.
“I am excited to the do the bachelor program at Hinds. I’ve been very impressed with the level of expertise shown here,” he said.
The collaboration with Hinds will allow recent community college graduates to further their education in the culinary field without the hassle of driving across the state. The W will now be bringing its instructors to their kitchen.
Alexei Huguley, assistant professor at The W, will be instructing the courses at Hinds.
“Many of the students coming into the program will already have a really good background in culinary. Our courses will be a much more expanded study in the culinary realm,” she said. “It will be a chance to go above and beyond what we already do.”
And speaking of experience, Williams has more than 10 years of knowledge in the food industry.
At the age of 15, he took his first job working in a doughnut shop. According to Williams, the amount of hours he could work at the time was limited by the state.
“This was the beginning of my culinary career,” he said. “I always wanted to be a chef since I was 2-years-old, cooking in the kitchen with my grandmother.”
Then as a dually enrolled student at the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science and Mississippi University for Women, Williams was given permission to take an academic culinary class.
“I was under the age of 18 and could not take a lab class,” he explained. “I thought I was pretty cool at the time.”
Williams went on to further his studies at Johnson & Wales University in Charleston, S.C., and Meridian Community College, where he was in the honors programs.
He has had stints at some impressive establishments, including Bon Ami in Jackson, which is no longer in operation; The Mayor’s Mansion Inn in Chattanooga, Tenn.; Briarwood Country Club in Meridian; and Wild Dunes Island Resort in Isle of Palms in S.C.
Williams said being in the restaurant business eventually took its toll. “I got burned out. The hours are crazy. It’s very stressful on your personal life.”
However, his time away didn’t last long. “I felt like my soul was shriveling like a raisin. I was not cooking and knew I had to get back into the kitchen.”
Williams also came to the realization that most of his jobs eventually led him to training and developing others.
In October 2012, he became a culinary instructor at the Viking School in Ridgeland. There he focused on teaching product and technique knowledge to guests in a classroom setting. Unfortunately, a decision was made to close the school a few months later.
As chance would have it, Williams ran into an old contact who suggested he apply for the teaching position at the Clinton High School Career Complex.
“Initially, I fretted over the concept,” he said. And almost six months after teaching at the Viking School, Williams found himself in the classroom with 10th -12th graders.
“I’ve fallen in love with it,” he said.
As for his time at The W, Williams said, “The chefs have been very welcoming. A lot of chefs can be very guarded with their recipes. I feel like I’ve been a part of this program since the beginning.”
For more information about the program, call The W’s college of business and professional studies at (662) 329-7152.
1100 College Street Columbus, MS 39701phone: 662.329.4750 or 877.462.8439