Despite challenges, Culinary student follows his dream

Mortel Crawford

In many ways, Mortel Crawford is like any other student in the Metropolitan Community College Culinary Arts program.

“I heard they had the best culinary arts program,” Crawford said about why he chose MCC. As a student in the program, he has worked in the kitchen of the Sage Student Bistro, prepping food and cooking.

Crawford also works at Big Mama’s Kitchen, 3223 N 45th St., where he does just about everything that needs to be done in the kitchen.

“I do a lot of prep work,” he said. “I prepare the salads, work the Panini press. I make the corn bread. I portion and weigh out the fries and Gouda macaroni and cheese. I fry okra, French fries, fried gouda macaroni and cheese and corn bites.”

Only one thing sets Crawford apart from his peers in the kitchen, he is visually impaired. Crawford lost his eyesight in 2011 when he was caught in the crossfire of gun violence. 

However, Crawford hasn’t let not being able to see food keep him from following his passion of working with it. He said MCC has been nothing but helpful during his journey to completing his associate degree. 

“They have great accommodations for me,” Crawford said. “The instructors give me extra help in the classroom. Classmates will grab my ingredients. I get extended time to complete my quizzes, tutoring and midterms.”

It doesn’t stop in the classroom either, Crawford said. Teachers will often be available before and after class if he needs guidance on something.

“When they’re done speaking to the whole class, I can pull them over and they can explain it to me personally,” he said. “I can also call them if I missed school. If I have a problem, I can call, email or visit with them.”

Before his classes begin, Crawford sets up a meeting with his instructor in the classroom so he can become familiar with the layout. It helps him be more comfortable in the class once it starts.

“I set up an orientation before classes start so I know where to go if I don’t know the building,” Crawford said. “I am able to move around and work how I need to.”

Once he has graduated from MCC, Crawford hopes to get his bachelor’s degree. His ultimate goal is to open a restaurant of his own where everyone can find something they like.

“I want a family owned and family oriented restaurant,” he said. “Your elderly family members can eat, as well as diabetic, gluten free, everyone.”
Being visually impaired has made Crawford value his education even more, he said.

“It means a lot to me because I want to teach my son that education is important no matter what he goes through,” he said. “It’s still good to pursue an education and reach the dreams you want to reach and reach the goals you set for yourself.”