• Interview with Chef Bifulco

    Executive Chef Robert C. Bifulco is the Program Chair of the Culinary Arts AAS curriculum at Remington College - Dallas Campus, in Garland, Texas. Chef Bifulco, who has been with Remington College for almost five years, helped to create the program curriculum and designed the Campus restaurant-lab facility, called "Beginnings."

    A hospitality industry professional with more than 40 years of experience, Chef Bifulco holds hotel management degrees from the University of Denver (CO) and Paul Smith's College (NY). His experience includes tenures as the executive chef for a major worldwide hotel chain and as the general manager of a private club. He is also a master ice sculptor and has achieved national and international recognition for his creations.

    Formerly a director of the Dallas Chapter of the Texas Chefs Association, Chef Bifulco has been the recipient of numerous hospitality awards as part of that group, including the chapter's award for Chef of the Year. He is also the two-time recipient of an award for excellence and innovation in post-secondary culinary education by the Center for the Advancement of Foodservice Education (CAFE), in 2007 and 2009.

    Q: Chef B., what's new in the Culinary Arts Program at Dallas? How many students are currently enrolled?

    A: "Every day, our Culinary Arts Program reaches new milestones. We are at our highest enrollment in the program's almost four-and-a-half-year history, with 140 students.

    Also, our student retention rate is at an all-time high since the program's inception in October 2005, holding firm at 88 percent for 2009. This milestone is particularly meaningful because our program aims to teach a great deal of discipline.

    I'm also happy to say that the City of Garland's Health Department has placed our beautiful two-story culinary facility (one of nearly 1,500 food service operations in Garland) in the top 5 percent among all such operations for our excellence in food safety and sanitation.*

    This is a huge recognition for us, especially since this again reflects the values we try to instill in our students. In my view, our program's value to the local industry grows every day. Numerous field trips, feedback from employers, and visits from industry professionals have helped us to gain even stronger recognition and worth."

    * www.garlandtx.gov/gov/hk/health/services/scores.asp

    Q: What are your students like in terms of their current status, personal characteristics, and goals?

    A: "We've always had a greater percentage of women, and a number of our female students are single parents who are employed full-time. Our classes do have a great diversity of cultures, age ranges, and life skills, however. It's inspiring to visit the classrooms and see students who range in age from 18 to senior citizen.

    While some are just beginning their first career training program, others are pursuing a life's dream - but everyone comes to us with a great love of food and a desire to learn.

    Some students have prior degrees in other areas, some are ex-military, and several come from various parts of the country. All of them quickly discover the potential career possibilities, and some are even inspired to pursue advanced degrees. Most of our students are enormously challenged each day because they negotiate so much in balancing their personal lives and their work and college demands, but an impressive number measure up to what's expected.

    Currently, the percentage of students with perfect attendance and Dean's List honors is at an all-time high of more than 30 percent." Artistic Culinary Cuisine

    Q: Why do you think the Culinary Arts Program is important and valuable for students? What makes the program unique, in your view?

    A: "Well, the hospitality industry is a large and diverse employer. Although the cornerstone of what we teach is food, regardless of the career direction students pursue, I think they're prepared to succeed because of the knowledge they've acquired.

    The uniqueness of our program is the very marker that has garnered us national recognition (from CAFE). Our holistic approach to post-secondary culinary education has created a learning environment that identifies each student's strengths, and the instructor team uses this information to help each student make the most of his or her time in the program.

    Also, our classroom course objectives are related to the real world. Each day, our instructors are committed to helping students understand the 'why' of what we want them to do, rather than just the basic skills and knowledge.

    Additionally, our system of evaluating students, our teaching philosophy, and our innovative approach to lesson plans create greater potential for students to learn. When students graduate, I believe they're in a solid position to demonstrate competency in many areas and are proud of their achievements."

    COMING SOON: Part 2 of our interview - Instructors, Department GoalsChallenges, and Success Factors