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Sharpening Skills, Opening New Doors

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Grand Rapids Community College Secchia Institute for Culinary Education student Jacqui Bumstead, describes her decision to make a career change from teaching as her own “mid-life crisis.”

“I was a teacher overseas for years in various, exotic corners of the earth, South Korea, Peru, Jamaica and Austria, finally ending up in Dallas,” said Bumstead, 33. “I just wasn’t happy, felt a little lost after teaching, but didn’t want to step back into the classroom.”

Bumstead made the move back to Michigan to regroup, take stock of her interests and advantage of a supportive extended family in Eaton Rapids. She was armed with two degrees, one in education, the other in history.

Initially her career ideas ranged from singing in a band, training to be a masseuse or going to beauty school. Being single, her options were wide open. Taking the tour at GRCC Secchia Institute for Culinary Education was the lightbulb moment Bumstead was looking for.

“Food makes me happy,” Bumstead said. “I always loved to cook, to be in the kitchen. It’s an amazing feeling to watch people enjoy my food and see the happiness it brings. Walking into the kitchen on tour with Professor Gendler and watching Professor Campbell work with the students, I knew this was where I needed to be. The sheer joy on his face (Campbell) helping the class create, you really got the sense he and the other professors cared about the students’ success.”

“To someone considering the program, I would say do it. It’s amazing because the program doesn’t focus just on making food. It’s also about the historical influence of food. I love that aspect, being a history nerd.”

The two-year program starts out with a semester of lecture courses such as food science, culinary math and cooking fundamentals, all before going into the kitchen. Knife skills, table service and international food production are some of the lab classes required before an internship. Students graduate the program with the knowledge of how-to start their own business, calculate profit and loss and how to find investors.

“My favorite cuisine is Asian. I know it’s a broad statement but I love playing around with spicy, red pepper pastes and soy sauces. It’s fun for me to experiment,” Bumstead said. “Grand Rapids has a great culinary scene but I’m not the biggest fan of the ice and cold. I miss the sun and heat. My long term goal would be to open a bed and breakfast in the Gulf Coast area in a small town off the beaten path.”

Bumstead is in her second year of the program with one semester and a summer internship to finish her degree.

“I’m so happy and fortunate to be a part of this program. My alarm goes off at seven. Instead of hitting the snooze button I’m excited to get up and go to school because I’m looking forward to what I’m going to learn.”

Story and photo by Jill Rothwell