College of the Canyons officials are launching a capital campaign to raise funds to build a state-of-the-art, on-campus culinary facility.
The new home of the Institute for Culinary Education will greatly expand the number of locally available training opportunities in that field.
“College of the Canyons has cultivated a well-deserved reputation for meeting the needs of our students and the community, and the Culinary Arts facility is the latest example,” said COC Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook.
The college has long sought a way to expand the depth and breadth of its culinary department, in order to serve as many students as possible. But the absence of a permanent facility large enough to host such an undertaking has been a continual roadblock.
In its five years of existence, the culinary arts program has been housed in three separate facilities — the existing college cafeteria, a restaurant space at the Westfield Valencia Town Center and, currently, at another restaurant space in Castaic.
While each of these temporary facilities has served its purpose by providing students with a professional setting to hone their cooking skills in, that “student experience” has been offset by the lack of access to on-campus support services and facilities — library, academic counseling, health office etc. — that students visiting campus take for granted.
The presence of a permanent iCuE facility would also allow culinary students the ability to enroll in other general education college courses needed to earn a certificate or degree, without the inconvenience of having to travel back and forth between Castaic and the college’s campuses in Valencia and Canyon Country.
“Having an on-campus culinary facility would make a significant difference in the lives of students who are trying to manage their time between the classroom and the kitchen,” said Cindy Schwanke, COC culinary arts instructor and lead iCuE faculty member.
“But perhaps more importantly,” added Schwanke, “it would provide students with a sense of security in knowing that they will be able to enter the culinary program and complete their certificate or degree without having to wonder where, and if, they will have a facility to work in the following semester.”
College of the Canyons has long played an integral role in the educational and economic development of the Santa Clarita Valley. Because of this stability, many of the valley’s businesses and industries have come to rely on the college to provide the skills and knowledge their employees need.
The culinary arts, restaurant and food industries are no different, but since the majority of culinary training is conducted by for-profit, proprietary schools and institutions — which charge much higher per-unit rates — the college’s Institute for Culinary Education (iCuE) is one of the few options available to students looking to receive affordable, high-quality training in this high-demand field.
Culinary Industry in Growth Mode
According to the National Restaurant Association, the number of jobs for chefs, cooks and food preparation workers has increased nine to 17 percent since 2004 and is projected to continue rising.
Statistics also show that the industry employed 12.7 million people in the United States in 2010 and ranked as one of the largest private sector employers in the United States.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Labor projects that food service management jobs are expected to grow by nearly five percent from 2008 to 2018.
The college’s culinary arts program currently offers programs designed to allow students to work toward a certificate of achievement in culinary arts, along with a certificate of specialization programs in baking and pastry, wine studies and hospitality wine service.
However, the presence of a permanent iCuE facility would allow the college’s culinary department to greatly expand its degree offerings, in accordance with the needs and trends of the food service industry. In fact, college officials are already in the process of developing an associate in arts degree program for culinary students.
“In good times and in bad, food brings people together,” said Schwanke. “It’s exciting to know College of the Canyons will be a part of that.”
For more information and to learn how to get involved with the Culinary Arts Campaign, visit www.CanyonsCulinaryArts.com.