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Veteran Turns Chef

The culinary arts program at Francis Tuttle Technology Center helps prepare veterans for life after military service.
Veteran Turns Chef

Veteran Turns Chef

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Francis Tuttle Technology Center

Show Details

Show 1445: Veteran Turns Chef
Air Date: November 9, 2014



Rob McClendon: Well, according to Forbes, the entire military is expected to release 1 million service members over the next several years. And after serving our country, many of these returning veterans often find themselves without work. It’s a problem that Oklahoma CareerTechs are aiming to remedy. Joining me now in studio is our Andy Barth.


Andy Barth: Well, Rob, a military homecoming is a welcoming event; however, the joblessness that soon occurs afterward is not. Yet Francis Tuttle Technology Center is cooking up a recipe to put returning soldiers in a new career. From flying up above to chopping down below, for John Aquino the culinary arts program at Francis Tuttle is offering him a new career and a new life.

John Aquino: I used to fly on the AWACS as a communications technician.

Andy: But when he left the service in 2011, Aquino decided to follow his passion – a passion for food.

Aquino: I started cooking when I was about 13 years old. Both of my parents worked, and if we wanted to eat, we had to cook something delicious. So, well, it didn’t start delicious.

Andy: But delicious came later.

Aquino: That’s delicious!

Andy: And culinary arts instructor Andrew Laughlin says Aquino isn’t the only vet-turned-chef who has returned home.

Andrew Laughlin: I was in the United States Army, an infantryman. I’ve done a couple deployments, Kosovo, and I did a deployment in Iraq.

Andy: And after an honorable medical discharge, Laughlin returned to his home away from home – the kitchen.

Laughlin: Cooking’s always been my first choice, and because I was medically discharged, I had to have an action plan to fall back on. Fortunately for me, I had cooking that I always knew in the back of my mind would be something I’d come back to.

Andy: Currently, the U.S. Army has 520,000 men and women in active duty. Yet budget proposals would cut that number to 440,000, and according to the Pentagon, as many as 80,000 will be leaving the military in the coming year, looking for work.

Aquino: The military is going through force-shaping and letting people go. Most people, when you’re in the military, you don’t have time to plan ahead. So to be able to come out of the military from one career to move into another one seamlessly is, it’s so important.

Andy: Which is why the culinary arts program at Francis Tuttle is seeing a growing number of returning veterans signing up for classes, preparing for life after military service.

Laughlin: I think students are better off coming through CareerTech because now you have the best of both worlds instead of just college prep. You’ve got college prep, career prep. Combine the two, and it’s up to you what you do with that.

Andy: Helping people like Aquino turn military precision into a civilian career.