Career and College Readiness SPOTLIGHT:

Amanda Hartson Vicente returns to Petoskey High School Culinary Arts program, this time as an instructor  

A familiar face to Petoskey High School returned earlier this year as a key ingredient in helping students achieve their culinary goals. Amanda Hartson Vicente joined Chef Bill Sommerfeldt in the Culinary Arts program in January 2024, closing a personal loop for Vicente and taking the lead on sharing her baking expertise with up-and-coming young chefs.

“It really feels like I’ve come full circle, and I’m so glad to be here assisting in the culinary program,” said Vicente, a 2005 PHS graduate and now the class’s paraprofessional assistant. During her high school years, Vicente was a student herself in the culinary class, under previous Chef Roy Hall and long-time assistant Laura May, whose retirement led to the opening which Vicente was hired to fill.

Knowing Vicente and her baking and cooking capabilities, it was an easy choice for Sommerfeldt to bring her aboard.

“It’s a really good fit,” said Sommerfeldt. “I’ve known Amanda and I knew right away that she had the skills and abilities to help me in the classroom. It definitely comes down to experience, and she has that.”

Vicente said she became interested in the culinary program as a high school student because her older sister was in the class, which inspired her to enroll. She enjoyed participating in Skills USA competitions, which students still participate in today, and earned awards for her pastry creations. 

“I spent a lot of time in this classroom and I loved it. I also spent a lot of time in the kitchen growing up, baking with my sisters and grandma,” said Vicente. 

After graduation, she planned to attend culinary school and moved to Colorado with her sister, Sheila. Fate intervened, and instead she met her husband, Martin, and began to travel with him for his military career in the United States Air Force. The couple were stationed in Hawaii for several years before moving back stateside to finish out Martin’s military career. When retiring out of Ohio in 2020, at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic was impacting the country, their family decided to move back to Petoskey. Amanda and Martin have five children, including two children at Northwestern Michigan College in Traverse City – one pursuing drone piloting and the other culinary arts.

Upon her return to Northern Michigan, Vicente continued operating the “Haolepino” food truck that they had previously started in 2017. The name is derived from Hawaiian and Filipino origins of the Hartson and Vicente families and their time in the Aloha state. 

While Sommerfeldt focuses with students on culinary and hot foods instruction, Vicente is most at home in the baking and pastry world – giving students a well-rounded look at various options in the culinary arts, for careers and for personal interest in cooking. 

“Some people’s brains are made for baking, and that is not mine,” said Sommerfeldt with a laugh. “Amanda is a professional when it comes to baking, with her attention to detail.”

She said she most enjoys helping prepare students for competitions, among the many daily classroom tasks. During this interview, students were preparing for regional competitions, baking braided bread loaves, cornbread muffins, chocolate chip cookies, lattice-topped pies and other creations. There are about 40 students in the culinary program this year at PHS. 

“Once the students get interested in the class, and develop the new skills they learn, you can see it really take off. They really get into it, and it’s fun to be a part of seeing them develop in the kitchen,” she said.

Char-Em ISD’s Career and Technical Education Department continues to celebrate the success of students and graduates whose high school careers included CTE courses. Look for these regular features, Career and College Readiness in the Spotlight, recognizing the accomplishments of students, teachers, graduates and professionals! 

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