Forty-‐eight cooks graduated from the Los Angeles Airport Culinary Training Program with fresh skills that will benefit their careers and satisfy travelers’ palates. The program provides a much-‐needed culinary education that will ready the airport cooks for jobs at new high-end eateries to open there later this year.
A $4.11 billion modernization project at LAX includes the introduction of new, upscale restaurants at Terminal 4 and the Tom Bradley International Terminal. As the airport eateries undergo an upgrade, so too have the chefs, who’ve gone from fry-cooks and burger flippers to sauciers and culinary artists.
The new restaurants, which include well-known Los Angeles establishments such as Campanile, Border Grill, and The Larder at Tavern, will employ graduates of the program, all of whom worked previously at LAX’s fast-food concessions.
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa touted graduates’ role in the airport’s gastronomic improvement. “As our airport upgrades to house world class terminals and restaurants, these graduates will be responsible for preparing delicious, quality food for the nearly 63 million travelers who pass through the Los Angeles International Airport each year,” Villaraigosa says.
For chef Valencia Crain, 49, the program has been life-changing. “I’ve been working the food industry for decades,” says Crain, who works at the airport LA Roadhouse Route 66. “But I never thought I’d get the opportunity to go back to school and learn new skills. Now I can sous-vide pork chops and make hollandaise from scratch. I feel very proud.”
At their graduation, the chefs were joined by a group of Los Angeles’ leading restaurateurs, whose establishments will be among those that open at the terminals later this year. Mark Peel, owner of Campanile and former fry-cook himself, says that the worker-training is essential to revamping the food options at LAX.
“I am thrilled that Campanile will be at LAX helping to represent the great quality and diversity that is our town,” says Peel. “I have watched these graduating culinary students in action, and I am very impressed by their enthusiasm and commitment. This program is a model for the way unions and businesses should work together.”
Dazzling graduates and their families with a taste of what’s to come at LAX, Peel served saffron pickled deviled eggs and smoked eggplant puree and aged cheddar crostini. Border Grill Chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken served up fresh ginger and aji Peruvian Ceviche on plantain chips, and Ann Gentry of Real Food Daily offered a vegan oatmeal cookie and tempeh BLT. Amy Berman from Vanilla Bake Shop shared a delightful assortment of mini cupcakes.
The training program was operated with funding through a Los Angeles City Grant for $225,000, by the Hospitality Training Academy, a non-‐profit labor-management trust, which brought together labor, business, WorkSource Center partners, and Los Angeles Trade Technical College. LA Trade Tech and HMS Host developed the culinary curriculum to meet the needs of the new restaurants. The training took place at the HMS Host's LAX commissary, and was taught by instructors from LATTC and HTA.