Few things excite a chef more than shiny, new kitchen equipment – well, few things besides shiny new kitchens.
It’s a truism in the culinary world and Flint is no exception, the city’s proud food professionals say.
Mott Community College is helping take the lead to expand physical surroundings and opportunities for both scholars and specialists in the industry, and become part of the revitalization of downtown Flint.
The school’s plan to relocate its culinary arts program to a former Woolworth’s store is expected to enhance the budding landscape of restaurants and cafés. The move will allow Mott to nearly double its current culinary enrollment of 200 students. The project is expected to be completed by early 2019.
The program will serve more aspiring chefs and kitchen personnel and help Mott better serve the public, says Chef Matt Cooper.
“I think that’s the purpose of a community college. We serve the community and they support us,” says Cooper, Mott’s coordinator of culinary arts, baking and pastry arts, and food management programs.
The 36,000-square-foot facility undergoing renovation at 550 S. Saginaw for the culinary program will better connect students and their services with partners and supporters in the industry, he says.
Mott’s culinary advisory committee consists of about 24 professionals representing various facets of the field, from quick-serve to fine dining. Cooper envisions a pipeline of students emerging from the program’s new location as qualified candidates for positions at downtown eateries.
“We’re not going down there to be any kind of competition,” he says. “We want to supply them with some great employees.”
Baked goods, like the specialty cakes and tortes students are trained to create, might become another contribution to the community as the new facility equips Mott to package its products for retail sale at local cafés and shops, says Cooper.
Apart from potential benefits to the college and surrounding businesses, the relocation is timely for anyone who might be considering a career move that involves aprons or chef’s hats, he says.
“There’s a hole in the market and culinary’s hot. It’s going to stay that way,” says Cooper. “There are a lot of two-family incomes. Who’s got time to cook at home? That was kind of the pitch for the new department expansion.”
The expansion will let Mott add to its culinary degree opportunities and certification, helping students broaden their options.
Areas of study include certified dietary manager to meet the culinary demand of elder care and aftercare facilities, and barista certification for coffee shop operation, Cooper says.
The culinary arts department’s present amenities, including its hot-food kitchen, pastry kitchen, and Applewood Café restaurant, which is open to the public for lunch, will be significantly upgraded at the downtown site.
The new space is designed to accommodate a theater-style kitchen, with seating areas where guests can see students preparing meals, an advanced culinary kitchen, a temperature-controlled area for the advanced pastry, and a professional cookery lab.
Pickeling, butchering, sausage-making and other preparation techniques will be taught on site in state-of-the art settings.
A culinary library will be located on the lower level, and a student-run café will serve the public. Mott’s current student-run beverage shop is the Coffee Beanery franchise outlet, which donates sales profits to a scholarship fund.
“There’s a big buzz,” Cooper says, adding some of the current students are “jealous.”
He says the new facility will represent new access and hospitality that welcomes graduates, new enrollment, lunch patrons, retail customers and almost every other category of visitor. It is also expected to complement other business and entrepreneur activity setting the scene in burgeoning downtown.
“It’s surely going fit in with everything else,” Cooper says.