Bardstown City School Students Can Now Explore Careers in Culinary Arts

Starting this fall Bardstown High School (BHS) students can explore career opportunities in the hospitality, tourism and culinary arts industries.  Through the new Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies concentration students will study food, nutrition, food preparation, and will work to gain an industry certification called ServSafe.

This career-oriented culinary program falls in line with the district’s move to renovate the first floor of the former Bardstown Elementary School into a centralized career and technical education (CTE)  facility for students. Part of the renovation plans include converting the former cafeteria kitchen into a professional culinary arts classroom. The renovation work began in the winter of 2022 but won’t be completed until the fall of 2024.

To build the program the district leaned on local culinary and hospitality professionals to help determine the essential attributes of a high-quality culinary program and instructor. 

“We are elated to have found a professional with an impressive track record that showcased those qualities in both the culinary and education industries,” said Lance Blanford, workforce development director for Bardstown City Schools. 

In July BCS hired Chef Justin Whitsell to lead the culinary arts program. Whitsell, a certified culinary instructor, comes to BHS with both industry and teaching experience. Most recently, Chef Whitsell was the culinary instructor at Bullitt Central High School where he taught courses, connected students with industry work based learning experiences and community catering opportunities. Prior to becoming a culinary instructor Whitsell spent 15 years in numerous production and management roles throughout the food service and hospitality industry.

In his first year, Chef Whitsell will offer the entry level courses Foods and Nutrition and Culinary I with lab. This will allow students to be prepared for the advanced level courses of Advanced Foods and Nutrition, Culinary II, and a ServeSafe Industry Certification course next year. Eventually, the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Studies concentration will allow students to cater community events. 

“Tourism continues to expand in our area and along with it has come more restaurants that offer high-quality, unique dining experiences,“ said Blanford. “The program will help students develop essential skills needed in any profession and in life. However, the ultimate goal is for the program to serve as a pipeline to employment in the growing tourism and hospitality industry in Bardstown, the country, and around the world.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the culinary and hospitality industry is one of the fastest growing industry sectors in the United States. Over the next five years the industry is expected to grow by 12 percent. 

“As a restaurant owner in Bardstown, I am excited about partnering with Bardstown City Schools to help build awareness and a passion for the many opportunities that exist in the culinary and hospitality industry,” said Chef Newman Miller, chef/owner of  Mr. Tubs. “ This program is a perfect example of how BCS is focused on the needs of students and a rapidly growing, local industry.”

There are eight concentrations offered at Bardstown City Schools. The Culinary Arts and Hospitality concentration is one of two new programs BCS plans to offer in the new CTE space.

Chef Justin Whitsell stands in the kitchen at Bardstown High.
Chef Justin Whitsell stands in the kitchen at Bardstown High.