As we continue our series of highlighting our instructors, students, and alumni by telling their stories of successes, aspirations, and inspiration, we sat down with Joe Howard, a graduate from The Culinary School of Fort Worth in May of 2021. Joe is now a part of CSFTW’s apprenticeship program while working at The Fort Worth Club in downtown Fort Worth.

For Joe, the culinary industry is something that he has always known and been a part of.

Before enrolling at The Culinary School of Fort Worth, Joe spent 18 years working in commercial restaurant kitchens. He worked mostly in Italian restaurants in both the front and back of the house, including time spent as a manager, assistant manager, and sous chef at different locations.

“I always wanted to go to culinary school and get classically trained, but I never had the opportunity until COVID,” Joe said. “I got furloughed and suddenly had free time to attend a school.”

Joe explained that he valued his time in commercial kitchens, but he didn’t get the classic culinary training that he desired. He wanted to learn all of the techniques and methods of fine dining and French cuisine to help him take his experience to the next level.

After spending close to 20 years in the industry, Joe knows where his specialty is.

“Anything hot, that’s what I’m best at,” Joe said. “I love grilling and sautéeing and anything else that I can do on the hot line.”

Joe doesn’t want to only focus on what he’s best at. He wants to focus on his weaknesses and improve those to become a more all-around chef. That’s why he enrolled in the CSFTW apprenticeship program.

During his two years in the program at The Fort Worth Club, he will move throughout the entire kitchen. Right now he is getting his start in the a la carte kitchen. With weddings, banquets, and all other types of events, he will have plenty of time to work at every station.

“This is a different side of the culinary field than I’ve ever been in,” Joe said. “This is fine dining with a high attention to detail for all of the elevated dishes that we make.”

Even so, Joe is up to the challenge, and he credits his time at the school for helping to prepare him for this side of the industry.

“Everything we learned in school (methods, knife skills, techniques, vocab, etc.), we use at The Fort Worth Club,” Joe said. “I learned more [at school] than I did in my entire 18 years in the field.”

Joe closed our conversation with some encouraging words for prospective students that are thinking about attending CSFTW.

“If you’re on the fence, come in for a tour so you can see everything going on and what the students are doing,” Joe said. “Don’t be nervous because by the end of the program you’re going to take away a huge learning experience.”

Written by James Creange.