By Daniel Montaño, Staff Reporter | Photo by Daniel Montaño
The Culinary Arts program is getting served up four extra-large-labs with all the fixings.
Starting in the fall 2013 semester, Culinary Arts students will be cooking and baking in a brand new building filled with state-of-the-art equipment, said Peter Witter, culinary lab manager.
The new building located at 725 University Blvd. features four labs capable of holding 24 students each; one for baking, one for cooking, a multi-purpose lab that will have advanced baking and cooking classes and a full service restaurant that will serve as a lab for advanced cooking students, Witter said.
The culinary arts program currently uses two labs in Smith Brasher hall, which can only fit 20 students, and have been doing so since the early 1990’s, he said.
“It’s a world of difference between here and there, because when you come in here you see stainless steel and everything is new and looks modern. Over in smith brasher, everything is clean and works well, but it’s old equipment because the building itself is older,” Witter said.
The current labs in SB don’t have a separate area for instructors and students to work, but the new labs are designed to make the learning process easier for students, he said.
The new instructional labs have student workstations and storage racks for the students’ equipment, and instructors will have their own demonstration area complete with a sink, a stove, a grill, and a video system that will display what the instructor is doing on a large television screen that will hang over the demonstration area, Witter said.
“So the students out there at their workstations look at the screen and everything the instructor does will be televised for them,” he said.
The new restaurant lab features a full line-kitchen, which is set up similarly to most restaurants and includes a stone-fired pizza oven and a large rational combo-oven, Witter said.
The rational oven, of which there are smaller versions in the other new labs, is a technologically advanced, computer controlled oven capable of baking, searing, roasting and cooking several different items at once, and even has the capability to speak to students, Witter said.
“That rational oven is probably the most sophisticated oven that exists right now. It’ll literally speak to you and tell you, ‘Your biscuits are done, but your steak is still cooking’. Plus, it’s really simple to use. You just follow the instructions and you can’t go wrong,” he said.
The restaurant lab will be open twice a week to anyone in the public who makes reservations, and will host the advanced cooking students’ final class, which teaches the students how to cook in a real restaurant environment, Witter said.
Students in the restaurant lab will also get experience as servers for half of the course, he said.
“Half of the class will be cooking for the first four weeks while the other half is in the front of the house, then they’ll switch. That way everybody gets a taste of how everything works for when they get out there,” he said.
Although the building is finishing up this month, the culinary arts program will not be moving into the new labs until after the summer term because they are reusing some of the older equipment, such as the 20 burner stove in the current bake lab.
Even though the new labs aren’t completely set-up, Witter said that the students are ready for the move.
“We got to do a few things and we got to move a few more things, but it’s almost ready. The students that are graduating are a little jealous but the new students that come in here are going to love it. This building has the same design and equipment as all the new culinary schools that you see on TV,” he said.
Misuk Rankin, Culinary Arts major, and Denise Terrazas, culinary arts tutor for ACE took a tour of the new facilities with Witter, and both said they were excited to work in the new labs.
“I’m just so grateful I got in and that I get to bake and cook in a brand new kitchen. It’s so beautiful. I’m overwhelmed. It makes me want to bake right now,” Rankin said.
Terrazas said she thinks the ability to fit more students comfortably in the new labs will make it easier for students to learn and help to get more people into the culinary arts program.
“I think it’s awesome! I think it gives the students an opportunity to spread out because it can be really hard to work when you’re on top of each other. Plus, there’s always a list of people trying to get into the culinary program and hopefully this will ease the burden in the department,” Terrazas said.
Witter also said the new labs larger size will help to lessen the amount of students on the waitlist for the culinary arts program.