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Chef Pamela Bedford & the Eastside Institute of Culinary Arts

“Just Keep Swimming.”

Who is Chef Pamela Bedford?

Chef Pamela Bedford is the Director of the Academy of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School and has earned national honors for her work preparing students for success in the food and hospitality industry. Bedford was named the 2021 Educator of the Year by the American Culinary Foundation (ACF). She was the only female and the only high school educator among the four finalists for the award. “It means the world to me to be recognized as the top chef educator in the nation,” Bedford said.

What does the Educator of the Year Award mean?

The Educator of the Year Award pays tribute to an active culinary educator whose knowledge, skills and expertise have enhanced the image of the professional chef and who, by example, has given leadership, guidance and direction to students seeking a career in the culinary profession. In her 17 years with the program at EHS, including 6 years as director, Bedford has helped hundreds of students win awards, find jobs, and earn career certification.

Does it cost the students to compete in their competitions?

Last year Chef Bedford’s program spent over $12,000 to take the students to competitions at State and National Levels. "The students spend days practicing and the equipment they practice with has an expiration date."

Who funds the Academy of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School for their competitions and training?

The Academy of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School has to make its own money for competitions and training. That includes funding for the purchase of the food to practice what they learn in class. "That is a big misconception in the community, that we have funding for food and competitions. The students and I try to fundraise as much as we can. We cater for events and in our dining area we have holiday parties and business luncheons.” One of their biggest supporters of the program is the Rotary Foundation. There are also many local businesses that partner with and support the program and students.

How do you prepare your students for the competitions?

“My students compete a lot, I train them to do it,” Bedford said. “I encourage them, coach them, and hype them up." For the students and Chef Bedford, the competitions are an integral part of their education and experience in the program. Competition season is a great way to win awards but also a great way to earn those much-needed scholarship dollars for college! Most recently sweeping first place at regional, and state culinary competitions and placing 5th overall in the nation.

What certifications can students in the program receive? 

Being in the program offers the students the opportunity for an industry certification. The American Culinary Federation ACF Certification Program is the most comprehensive certification program for culinarians. Culinarians achieve certification based on education, experience, and successful completion of written and practical exams.

Can students earn scholarships through the program?

Students are also eligible for the Florida Gold Seal CAPE Scholarship. Students must meet the general requirements for a Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program award, earn a minimum of five postsecondary credit hours through CAPE Industry Certifications and complete at least 30 hours of service work approved by the district school board. 

What does the Florida Gold Seal CAPE Scholarship provide to the students?

The scholarship pays up to $48 per credit hour of a career education or certificate program (AS degree or Technical Certificate) tuition. The award requires the student to have completed CAPE industry certifications and service hours to qualify.

What do most students tell you about the reason they want to be a part of the Academy of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School?

"Most students start the program and want to run their own restaurants or be on the food network, some realize that they want to do something different. By graduating high school and completing the program, every culinary student is eligible for the Florida Gold Seal CAPE Scholarship (GSC)."

Do you have partnerships with other industry leaders? 

"I have helped students win scholarships and admission to top culinary arts colleges." Many of Chef Bedford's former students are now working in prestigious restaurants and hospitality settings nationwide. Chef Bedford is always looking for ways to partner with other industries to provide opportunities for the students. Articulation agreements are currently in place at Johnson and Wales University, Culinary Institute of America, Daytona State College, and the University of Central Florida.

What is your favorite quote?

“Just keep swimming.”

To learn more about the Academy of Culinary Arts at Eastside High School, please email Chef Bedford at bedfordpa@gm.sbac.edu . She would love to talk about the program and all it offers to students and families. 

"I can’t imagine doing anything else because I love what I do. I love it when the kids come back and work with the current students to help them succeed. My goal is to get the students to where they want to go. I work to inspire them every day and more than just starting a restaurant, let them know they can travel the world as a cook, that food is universal and has a story to tell. The reality is everyone eats, and we live in a hospitality state, there is always a job in the food industry, guaranteed."

The Eastside program is ranked in the Elite 50 of high schools excelling in the culinary arts, baking, pastry arts, and hospitality management.

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