Sunday, October 2, 2011

Navajo Nation’s Only Culinary-Arts Program Takes First Step toward National Accreditation

As Navajo Technical College in Crownpoint, N.M., has been taking leaps and bounds toward national acclamation, the NTC culinary-arts program has taken its first steps toward national accreditation.  

For three days, Navajo Tech welcomed chefs Robert Hudson, CEC, CCE; Keith Mandabach, CEC, AAC, Ed.D.; and Mark Cochran, CEC, CCA, CFBE, of the American Culinary Federation’s accrediting commission to review a self-study on the school’s culinary-arts program and to see if the school meets ACF’s standards for accreditation.  

The review included an examination of the college’s curriculum and staff, as well as a detailed inspection of the program’s educational facilities to determine if they are in line with industry standards.  

NTC culinary-arts student Melvina Jones poses next to her creations at the SkillsUSA National Conference in Kansas City, Mo.

After the three days of the initial evaluation, the commission provided an exit report that noted several of the school’s strengths, but also provided the Navajo Nation’s only culinary-arts program with a short list of compliance issues.

“For an initial process, it’s been very good,” said Hudson, who traveled to Navajo Tech from Colorado Springs to perform the evaluation. “I can see this program going further.”

Navajo Tech now has until mid-December to take the corrective measures to comply with the ACF commission’s requirements, in which it will have to address issues that involve student-to-faculty ratio, advisory-board expansion and creating a unified teacher manual that contains class outlines, notes and syllabi.

After Navajo Tech complies with each requirement, it must submit a report that addresses each correction, which will then be reviewed by the ACF’s national board in January. If the board approves of the report, Navajo Tech will receive either a three- or five-year accreditation so it can certify its students under the country’s most renowned culinary organization. If accredited, Navajo Tech would be the first Native American college to receive ACF certification.

Once the program receives its accreditation, NTC culinary-arts director Robert Witte, CEC, expects big things for one of the college’s most popular programs.

“Overall, this is going to improve the program by 300%,” said Witte. “We’re now going to be the model for all future Native American colleges who want to become accredited through the ACF.”

Mandabach was impressed with the direction the program is heading. “You guys have a really good program,” he said. “Your students have the desire, and if you have that, you’re 50% of the way there.”

The ACF is the culinary leader in offering educational resources, training, apprenticeship and programmatic accreditation designed to enhance professional growth for all current and future chefs and pastry chefs. In addition, the ACF operates the most comprehensive certification program for chefs in the United States. For more information, please visit