Merced County offering free culinary classes for students of all abilities

Priority enrollment is given to students with disabilities.
MERCED COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Madison Strauss-Bland is on the path to a new career thanks to the Merced County Office of Education's culinary essential program

"I wanted to check it out because I wanted to get a job in food service," said Strauss-Bland.

She's two months into the program and has already added a variety of cooking techniques to her resume.

"I've learned to follow recipes and make sure everything is proportioned well when making something for somebody," added Strauss-Bland.

The free program lasts 18 weeks and introduces students to fundamental skills like menu planning, food safety, nutrition and sanitation.

"This class is giving students the basic skills. It's getting them the skills needed to become employed," said culinary instructor Tisha McParland. "It's going to start with an entry level position, but once they get their foot in the door and that entry level position then they have the chance to work their way up."

Students can earn a food handlers card and a ServSafe certification. They'll also complete an internship with a local business.

"Everyone loves to go out to eat so food service is in great demand for their employees right now," said McParland.

The class meets Monday through Thursday. Priority enrollment is given to students with disabilities.

"They come in, we complete a portfolio, they get their food handlers card, we place them at a job site and they get hired," said McParland.

"I always liked to cook as a kid and it's something I like to do as a hobby," added Strauss-Bland. "I'd like to incorporate my hobby into what I do as a career."

If you're interested in enrolling, contact Dora Robles at or (209) 381-6684.

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