The Culinary Center plans to kick off Fall 2011 with a new building, new students, a new associates program and new goals.
It’s a very exciting time to be part of the Culinary Program, according to Debbie Nikander, a Central Oregon Community College Student who has been part of the culinary program since Fall 2010. The program has been bustling with activity over the past year, both with the construction of its new building and the revamping of the club.
The new culinary building has been a long time coming, according to Jene Fritz, the newly apponted director of the program. She said it has been in the planning stages for five years now.
“It’s a dream coming to fruition from the president down,” said Fritz.
The new building will have a 68 percent increase in capacity from the current location in the Grandview building. The new building will maintain an 18:1 ratio of students to faculty members and insure that classes will be scheduled at more convenient times of the day than they are in the current schedule.
Fritz said that the idea is to better accommodate the students and not have to work around space and class schedules issues.
In addition to accommodating more students, the new building is a gold standard in sustainability, which means students will learn to take a more green approach to cooking.
“The idea is we’re insuring a solid compost program and recycling,” said Fritz. “There will be more green in the equipment and in the learning experience as well.”
The new culinary building is being built on shared land at the edge the campus’s property, giving it the chance to integrate into the community.
The rest of the land will be developed by the same developers that worked on the Old Mill District.
Once they’re integrated, the Culinary Program will be opening a restaurant that will be student-operated and open to the public for full dinner service Tuesday through Friday evenings. While working there, students will put to use what they’ve learned in the areas of cooking, serving, seating and all other aspects that go into running a restaurant.
“Everything they’ve learned in the curriculum will be put to the test in the restaurant,” said Fritz.
The naming of the new restaurant will take place on May 25, during a reception that will formally welcome Fritz—who started as the director of the program in February 2011—to the Cascade Culinary Institute. This event will take place in Willie Hall in the Campus Center from 5 to 7 p.m. Students and faculty are welcome to attend, but they must RSVP by May 18.
The new building isn’t the only addition to the culinary program that will be opening up fall term 2011. The program is also opening up a new associates program: baking and pastry. This new degree program will open a new door for students who are seeking a specialized career in the culinary field.
“We’re trying to listen to the industry, respond to their needs and make sure we’re current,” said Fritz.
The offering of the baking and pastry degree has already attracted the attention of Elizabeth Bacon, a high schooler who will be entering into the culinary program in Fall 2011.
Bacon said that she’s excited to join COCC’s culinary program, and especially likes the idea of focusing on baking.
“I’m a picky eater, but I know I’d like every dessert I make,” said Bacon.
One of the main focuses, according to Fritz, is to engage with the advisory board and local industry to see what is needed in the work force, so they can prepare their students to meet that need and obtain jobs.
“We serve them this way, they graduate and serve the industry, which turns around and helps the community,” said Fritz.
The culinary club is also undergoing some changes and doing what it can to reach out to the community. Debbie Nickander, the head of the club, said that the members are currently in the process of revamping it, starting with a name change.
The club is now known as the High Desert Jr. Chef’s Association. The reason for name change is that the club is actually part of the High Desert Chef Association, and the members of the club wanted to represent that.
One of the changes that Nickander hopes to bring to the club is to integrate it more into the community.
Recently club members finished working with the new community garden, and Nickander says that they hope to continue participating in events, bringing in guest speakers and educating the community about what is culinary, as well as inspiring the next generation.
“We want to be active with the things that involve food. With the organizations that support giving back, as well as the growing,” said Nickander.
Nickander said that she is excited for the changes to come not only to the club, but to COCC’s culinary program as well. She has been part of the program since fall 2010, and has found it to be a very rewarding experience.
“There’s such a sense of family up here… everyone really cares about everyone else. The instructors are focused not just on education but helping us succeed in any way that we need,” said Nickander.
Cedar Goslin can be reached at Cgoslin@cocc.edu
Dates To Remember
May 25: Formal welcoming reception for Chef Jene Fritz, and the release of the name of the new student operated restaurant. Willie Hall 5-7 p.m.
June 26: Farm to table dinner event. Willie Hall. 3 p.m. for appetizers and reception, 4 p.m. for dinner service.
Fall 2011: Opening of the new culinary building and beginning of the new associates program in baking and pastry.