Growing Pains: Culinary Program Settles Into New Facility

Culinary students and professors are getting used to their new facility. The program has many plans for the future, but is still in its smoothing out stages of running the institute, selling food and holding classes.

There are things the average student should know before eating there.

“There are a few growing pains just getting used to the new facility and new instructors,” first year baking student Leslie Krawchuk said. “But that is completely expected.”

Krawchuk said during the first few months, classes were taught off campus.

“It was a little bit much to have everyone in one small facility, arriving at the same time,” she said.

She said not having new equipment to start was actually beneficial because it showed her and her classmates what it’s like in the real world.

Cuisine instructor Earl Frederick teaches a two-week Servsafe course at the beginning of the culinary year. Servsafe is a national certification acknowledging the recipients’ proficiency in personal hygiene, cleaning, sanitation, basic food safety, time, temperature, cross-contamination and allergens.

Frederick said Clark requires a Servsafe certificate for its students, even though the state does not. He said he wants to prepare his students for restaurant life.

But in Clark’s kitchen, there’s not enough room to make the food certifiably allergen-free.

Head of Professional Baking and Pastry Arts Alison Dolder said none of the products can be made gluten free because all the food is made in the same areas. She also said even though a product may not contain nuts, there’s still a chance of it coming in contact with them.

This is the result of using the same room for all the baking. Even though baking students clean their areas, things like flour can still be in the air.

She said if students have questions about foods ingredients or have allergies they need to eat around, they should ask those working.

However, not everyone in the institute will have answers to food-related questions. The Culinary and Baking departments are separate so if a student has a question about baked goods, they should ask a baking student and the same goes for cuisine students.

Customers should be aware that who they ask will change the answers, too. All culinary students wear white hats, white shirts and black pants with white stripes. The instructors wear black hats with white shirts and black pants. Food service workers wear gray uniforms with baseball caps, and cashiers wear gray uniforms with white hats.

Since cashiers are work study and institutional hire students, they are not part of the culinary and baking classes or programs and often do not know what the food contains. Food service workers are cooks hired by Clark to run the cafeteria during the hours students don’t work, and the food they make during that time may have different ingredients or health statements than what the culinary students provide.

Frederick said “Food service has changed in general. It’s not just one position … They want more flexibility.”

He said the minimum wage has gone up so much that restaurants won’t be able to afford staff to tend to customers in a sit-down service setting. “In the next couple of years you’ll see restaurants be more counter service,” he said.

Clark’s food line style removes the wall between customer and cook, while complementing that change in the industry, Frederick said. However, it requires students to learn customer service and be aware of what foods contain allergen products so they can alert customers.

Dolder said her students like the windows into the baking area because it connects them to the public. She said with the old facility many students entered and exited through the loading dock and never saw the students who ate there.

Dolder said Clark’s culinary program differs from other programs because it’s a production-based curriculum versus a demonstration-based one. She said the bakery is the only reason they can do this because it gives them a place to sell what they make.

Dolder said she’s happy with the new space. She said even though the old and new space are the same size, the new space feels bigger.

The cafeteria is composed of three sections: the hot line, the pre-packaged food and the retail bakery. The hot line usually makes burgers, tater tots, fries and chicken tenders but culinary students occasionally prepare specials there.

Pre-packaged foods are made by culinary students for customers on the go. These items have labels on them informing students what the food contains, while products in the hot-line and bakery do not.

The retail bakery is run by the baking department and sells cakes, scones, cupcakes, cookies and more.

“We’ve added the espresso bar to the new bakery and that’s a big draw for a lot of people,” Dolder said.

She also said the baking department hopes to make improve the signs in the bakery. She said the bakery is undergoing trial-and-error phases right now but she hopes new labels will be added soon.

She said even though she and other instructors are choosing what’s sold in the bakery now, second-year students will run it next year under instructor supervision.

She said despite small flaws, she’s excited for the program and has many ideas for the bakery’s future, but it all has to come in baby steps.

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