Culinary students should be allowed to work with alcohol

By George Darany
It is so important to do everything we can to ensure that our students have all the tools they need to succeed once they leave the classroom and enter the workforce. However, it seems as though there are some in Lansing who have very different ideas about how to accomplish this goal and they do not want to properly invest in our schools. In order for Michigan to thrive, we should be supporting our K-12 education systems as well as our universities and community colleges.

Many times I have found that small changes, rather than over-reaching and sometimes extreme reforms, can be some of the most effective ways to give our current and future workers a leg-up in the job market. One such measure that will help graduates from Henry Ford Community College’s Culinary Arts program is House Bill 4744, which I introduced.

The bill will allow the governing board of a community college or university with an accredited culinary arts or hospitality program to apply for a liquor license to serve or work with wine, beer or spirits at the culinary program’s location. These activities would be restricted to the program’s location, and would have to further the community college or university’s academic mission.

The motivation behind this legislation is two-fold. First, it will let our culinary arts students at HFCC prepare recipes that call for wine, beer or spirits. It will also allow them to learn how to successfully pair a dish with a wine, beer or spirit. In addition, these skills will help our students become more competitive in the job market. The second motivation is to encourage the use of Michigan products in both the classroom and places of business.

Many recipes call for the use of wine, beer or spirits in food preparation. From white and red wines to sherry and beer, alcoholic drinks are often a vital ingredient in cooking. This is especially true in marinades that are paired with Michigan beef, poultry and venison. There has also been increased interest in professionals who specialize in drink pairings, known professionally as beer and wine sommeliers.

The increased interest in supporting small businesses and buying local, combined with more than 75 wineries and 60 breweries in Michigan, has created a greater demand in the restaurant industry for professionals who can make and suggest pairings of local products with dishes at our local restaurants. By bringing more Michigan products into the classroom, we are encouraging their demand in the commercial world and supporting a sector of our state’s growing economy.

This bill is aimed to give our graduates every opportunity to succeed when finishing their education. I have consistently advocated that a well-educated and highly-skilled workforce that can compete for jobs in the 21st century economy is key to Michigan’s future. Professions now demand more expertise than ever. This legislation puts more tools in our students’ hands which will result in greater job opportunities after graduation.

My bill recently passed out of the House Committee on Regulatory Reform and I anticipate it will soon be voted on by the full House of Representatives. I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues to see this bill to the governor’s desk and ensure our HFCC Culinary Arts students and those at other schools have every opportunity to succeed.

(State Rep. George Darany represents the 15th House District. To contact him- call (855) 775-1515 or email him at georgetdarany@house.mi.gov. To sign up for his e-newsletter, go to his website, house.mi.gov/gdarany.)

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