Tymi Howard

Trident Technical College

"I love talking about food, and gathering with people on a regular basis to talk about food and restaurants really lights me up."

My name is Tymi Howard and I’m studying culinary arts at Trident Technical College. When I was younger, I was a ballet dancer and danced professionally for a few years. I ended up going to Rawlins College for theater and dance, then got my master’s degree at New York University. New York is where I fell in love with food.

How did you get from dancing and doing theater in New York to culinary school in Charleston?

After New York, I moved to California and started teaching yoga, managing gyms, and working at restaurants before moving back to Florida to open my own yoga studios. I began getting invited to teach at yoga conferences around the world. For the next eight years, I spent 10 months out of the year teaching yoga in mainland China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Bali, Australia, and New Zealand. The whole time, I was still loving food and learning so much about different cuisines through my travels.

At the end of 2019, I decided to sell my yoga studios, and moved with my husband to his hometown of Charleston. I was still traveling and teaching yoga and doing teacher trainings, but when COVID-19 hit and everything shut down, I had to take all my yoga teaching and trainings online.

It turned out to be a blessing because it afforded me so much extra time where I’m not in an airport or traveling. When I asked myself what I wanted to do with all that extra time, culinary school was the answer.

What did you know about the culinary program at Trident Technical College?

When I researched Trident Tech, I looked at the reviews, but I also went and looked at the faculties’ biographies and resumes. I was so impressed. The name of the school didn’t matter to me as long as I resonated with the teachers I would be learning from. 

I spoke with Chef Michael Carmel, the department head of the culinary arts program, and he put me at ease. I would love to own a food truck in the future, and Chef Carmel told me what I needed to do not only in terms of cooking, but also getting the required loans and permits. That personal connection made all the difference. Plus, when you go to the campus, the culinary facilities are amazing! They’re fully decked out.

Tell us about your experience so far.

I was prepared to be the oldest person in the class, but I was actually right in the middle. There are students older than me doing the same thing — going back to school to follow a passion — and there are students straight out of high school. But the best thing is that the class sizes are small. It is so refreshing to be a person, not just a number.

The faculty has been great, too. They are super personable, and you can tell they love what they do. That makes me feel confident I’m in good hands, and that my teachers are going to share all the knowledge they can. 

The teachers want you to succeed. They set students up for success by meeting them where they are. In one of my classes, we had a quiz and everyone got the same thing wrong. Rather than blame us for not getting the answers right, my teacher said, “Let’s go over this. Let me reteach this. I’m going to give you an opportunity to retake the quiz.” He put the focus on learning and retaining the knowledge and the skills.

Chef Carmel has even found work for some of the students in my class, and it’s just our first semester. If I want to work for a certain restaurant or learn a certain style, all I have to do is reach out to my faculty because they’re all working in the industry. That’s huge.

How has culinary school stoked your passion?

I love restaurant people, energy, hospitality, and creating an environment. I love talking about food. Just gathering with people on a regular basis to talk about food and the restaurant industry really lights me up.

As someone who has experience in higher education and as an entrepreneur, what unique value does technical college bring?

I think that technical college gives students a taste of real life. It brings together different people, ages, genders and backgrounds in one classroom around shared passions. 

For me, it’s a passion for cooking; for others it’s plumbing or computers. The moment we start talking about our passion, all the lines blur. We only see we’re connected by that one thing that we love to do, and we want to learn more about. I love that technical college is really focused on the thing you want to learn more about. There isn’t a bunch of required fluff.

What advice would you give to someone thinking about technical college?

Reach out to a faculty advisor. It helps a lot when you know you have someone you can go to for guidance and advice.

You can make tons of excuses for why you shouldn’t go back to school or go to college. If you want to learn, don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t. Just get started. You’ll never regret going to school and learning more. 

Technical colleges are a great opportunity for everyone. They give you a great foundation and help you build connections in whatever industry you want to work in. The faculty and staff working in the industry are your greatest resource.