Rachel Harris equates food with love and family. Her favorite childhood memories are the Thanksgiving holidays when her family would gather at her grandmother’s home in Sturgis, Miss. The family would pile into the small kitchen to help her aunt prepare the meal.
“Those are fond memories because I love spending time with my extended family. Thanksgiving was always a big deal,” Harris told the Mississippi Free Press. “I think because Thanksgiving is usually centered around food, I’ve just always associated it with (family), and that has definitely shaped me in a culinary aspect.”
Harris is set to graduate from the Mississippi University for Women’s culinary arts program in December 2023.
Mississippi University for Women established the program in 1996. Currently, it is the only university in Mississippi to offer a Bachelor of Science degree in culinary arts. Experienced chefs instruct the nearly 50 students in the program—teaching lessons in food prep, knife skills, cooking techniques and other categories—and guest chefs visit to teach specialized classes.
Culinary Arts Institute Director Dr. Tracee Watkins, who holds an MBA from Mississippi State University and a doctorate in hospitality and dietetics administration from Kansas State University, is a graduate of the program.
“Other programs that are here in the state have a really great emphasis more on hospitality as a whole or food service as a whole,” Watkins told the Mississippi Free Press. “We are very very focused … on what you do as a chef. How does a chef behave? What might happen in a restaurant kitchen or a food service kitchen—that focus is on the retail level of food.”
MUW also recently opened a new culinary-arts facility; it began holding classes this fall. Its website describes the building as “the largest purpose-built facility for culinary education in the state of Mississippi.” MUW President Nora Roberts Miller said that the university has been planning for the upgrade for nearly a decade.
“The actual construction was probably about 18 months,” Miller told the Mississippi Free Press. “But it took a number of years of planning, and it took a number of years for
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