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Food and Drink Features

Practice makes perfect

Francis Tuttle’s new culinary training center is a cutting-edge facility.

Greg Horton March 14th, 2012

The scale of the school is immediately impressive. Massive pillars and vaulted ceilings are made inviting by soft lines, curving hallways and earthtoned upholstery. Everything about it says excellence.

Students at the Culinary Arts Center, which welcomed its first class last month and is located at Francis Tuttle Technology Center, have access to the best equipment the culinary industry has to offer.

Balanced with the amount of money spent on this amazing school (between $20 million and $25 million) is the reality that nearly everything will last for years to come. The Culinary Arts Center boasts pans with lifetime warranties, ranges that will run without a hitch for more than two decades, and food collection systems that recycle water and facilitate easy composting.

The center is both a technological and an aesthetic marvel, as well as a remarkably functional school that will train high school students and adults for careers in food service. Program director and chef Marc Dunham said every conceivable detail has been considered, and every decision has been made with student success and fiscal responsibility in mind.

“The number of options students will have with this new school will allow us to tailor their education to make them competitive in the market,” Dunham said.

The facility features two skills labs (really massive kitchens), a meat and fish lab, a chocolate lab, a gardemanger (a preparation area for cold dishes) and a bakery lab.

Dunham said the school eventually will add more labs, including one for butchery lab and one for a baking/pastry program.

The public soon will have access to Dunham’s students via District 21, an on-site, full-service restaurant, cafe and bakery. The school currently is looking for a chef to oversee the eatery.

Located at 12777 N. Rockwell, the restaurant will serve as an internship for the students’ final phase of education. Seating 120, it will be open from 5 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays, and include a practice bar where students will mix nonalcoholic drinks. The projected opening is late spring.

The school also features a stateof-the-art demonstration kitchen, which Dunham said eventually will be as equipped as a modern television studio. It will be used for public cooking demonstrations, and to allow companies to lease the space to demonstrate new equipment.

Dunham expects the program to have critics because it’s not a degree-granting program.

“We’re working on American Culinary Federation accreditation, and we’re negotiating articulation programs with reputable schools like the Culinary Institute of America,” he said. “Because we’re not locked into a degree program, though, we have the versatility to do what we need to do to keep up with the industry.”

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