The Clark community will have a new place to eat, socialize and take modernized cooking courses when construction finishes on a new culinary institute and dining facility in the Penguin Union Building this Fall.
The $10.5 million McClaskey Culinary Institute is modeled after contemporary restaurant and kitchen designs. The plan features four kiosks, a bakery that will offer artisan breads and desserts, a barista station, indoor and outdoor dining, a lounge and state-of-the-art kitchens. The open production concept will make the space adaptable to future changes.
Menus will emphasize ethnically diverse, healthy and locally produced meals according to director of Communications and Marketing for the Clark College Foundation Rhonda Morin, who says the hope is to eventually be able to do “farm to table” cuisine.
Vice President of Instruction Tim Cook said the restaurant, bakery and kiosks will be run primarily by Clark culinary students. This will provide the chance to employ the skills learned in class and to acquire management and catering experience students need for future jobs, Cook said.
“The vision was to bring back a culinary and baking instructional program that had modernized its curriculum and was using state-of-the-art equipment so that students who graduated were ready to be hired and could be successful,” said Vice President of Administrative Services Bob Williamson. “We also wanted to make the facility much more attractive, bigger and capable of providing a variety of food over a much longer period than previously.”
The restoration is a decade in the making. Morin said the institute was last upgraded in the ‘80s, and needed to be “refreshed at least and completely redone at most.”
The old facility was so outdated newer culinary methods could not be taught effectively. The curriculum needed to be revamped as well to fit current standards and achieve American Culinary Federation status.
“This is about teaching modern cuisine and baking techniques, and responding directly to what industry is asking for,” Morin said.
Currently, the will-be institute is in the underground phase of construction. This includes installing plumbing, utility lines and laying out a stable foundation, project manager Jim Watkins said.
“We’re doing everything we possibly can to make the September 2017 deadline for fall classes,” Watkins said. “That’s a commitment that the [college] president has made and we’re doing everything to ensure that it gets done.”
Though the construction should finish by fall, students will have to finesse their skills before they can begin cooking at the institute’s restaurant. Vendors will prepare the food while students complete the first stage of the program.
Since the previous culinary programs’ closing three years ago, due to the remodeling, culinary institute Le Cordon Bleu’s nearby Portland location has closed, leaving the McClaskey Institute as the only public culinary program in the area. Le Cordon Bleu had an average tuition of $42,500 compared to Clark’s $11,787-$12,987 according to the McClaskey Institute webpage.
Applications for the McClaskey program for fall quarter are due April 14. Clark will host information sessions to meet faculty and learn about opportunities at the institute at 6 p.m. on Feb. 23 and March 6 in the Penguin Union Building.
“We’re hoping for a capacity of 100 students and there seems to be quite a bit of interest already,” Cook said.
The focus is not just culinary students: the new facility strives to serve the Clark community as a whole. Suggested activities like cooking competitions and demonstrations, poetry readings, and jazz nights are meant to promote community involvement.
Research proves that students who get food at community dining areas achieve better bonds within the school and greater academic success, because they stay on campus, get involved and finish projects, Cook said.
“A big hope for this is to be a community atmosphere, where students, faculty and staff can come together and share ideas and thoughts while eating,” Morin said. “Food really brings you together, it brings unity to people, so this is an opportunity to celebrate that. It’s important to nurture the relationships on campus, and that for the students is going to be the most interesting part.”