Over the next few years, Salt Lake Community College’s Culinary Institute will be restructuring and expanding its program to include Hospitality and Restaurant Management (HRM) and Baking/Pastry paths for students. The expansion, designed to stay current with the industry trends, will provide a world-class education at the Associate’s level for the Salt Lake City region.
The expansion will be phased and includes the introduction of an entirely new, stand-alone program for SLCC.
“Our goal is to have stackable credentials. A student can earn Certificates of Proficiency, Certificates of Completion, and also the A.A.S. track in HRM. Baking and pastry will probably come a year or two after that,” says Basil Chelemes, Associate Professor in Business Management, and a 23-year teaching veteran of SLCC.
The new program will also be interdisciplinary.
“This program will be unique because we will draw from other disciplines,” says Chelemes. “It won’t be strictly hospitality, or taught by culinary faculty only. We will have accounting and marketing, for example. It will be through the school of business, but we will pull in other disciplines.”
The idea of fusion in culinary arts is applicable to SLCC’s expanding program because it is why culinary education is such a hot topic, why programs across the country are expanding and why entire television food-oriented networks have emerged, according to Chelemes.
“We’ve become more global, and so we have to be more aware. Salt Lake for example has an influx of Spanish-speaking and Hispanic population, and we have a large Asian population, and so diversity through culinary is a great way to gain that awareness,” says Chelemes.
Chef Laura Marone brings that level of diversity into the baking and pastry class at SLCC. Marone, who has taught baking and pastry at SLCC since 2010, operated a cake decorating business in her native hometown of Napoli, Italy. In recent years, she studied with some of the world’s leading pastry chefs. The list reads like a “who’s who” in cake decorating.
“I have a culinary degree from the U.S. But I then go study wherever there is somebody famous,” says Marone. “Ron Ben-Israel, Colette Peters, Marina Sousa, or world pastry champions like Chris Sumner or [Dimitri Fayard] in the French pastry school, Maggie Austin – a bunch of them. Ron Ben-Israel – he’s the best in the country for cake decorating right now.”
Last summer, Marone visited and learned from Nick Malgieri at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, a place once known for having the likes of Julia Child teaching classes.
“It’s very famous, their baking and pastry program,” says Marone, who claims Malgieri to be among the country’s “best bakers.”
Keeping up with demand
The growth in culinary arts and need for culinary education in Salt Lake City is an extension of a greater Utah economic picture.
“I think what’s happening is that Utah has become a travel destination. Tourism. When you have some of the top ski resorts in the country here, you have some of the most beautiful natural formations here in southern Utah, the State has reasons to have tourism here,” says Chelemes, who teaches management classes that bridge business and culinary.
“It’s important to get those degrees because Salt Lake is becoming a convention hub and it’s only going to get bigger. We see that there is that need, and it would give students that ability. Right now we only offer a culinary degree, but it needs to be expanded,” says Chelemes.
The full baking and pastry program is “down the road, part of a five-year plan,” according to him, once the overall culinary program is restructured and the HRM program is in place.
“The baking and pastry needs expansion too. It’s not only weddings, but it’s that many restaurants specialize,” says Chelemes.
“I am hoping for more [baking] classes,” says Marone, the instructor of the Culinary Institute’s lone baking course. “We have to cram everything in one semester, and it’s not possible. Culinary Arts has one baking class to have everything in it – pastry, baking, cake decorating, plated desserts.”
In culinary schools that have a separate baking and pastry program, these options are typically offered as distinct courses and specializations. In SLCC’s current setup, only one course is available to teach it all.
“[Until expansion] we have to do everything in one 16-week semester,” says Marone.
Facility upgrades needed
For SLCC, it is not the curriculum development or finding the right mix of instructors that is preventing the plan to move forward more quickly.
“The hardest part is that our current facility isn’t set up for the potential number of students we could be getting,” says Chelemes. “That’s the biggest reason we can’t just jump into the baking and pastry A.A.S. at this point in time. We just don’t have the lab space.”
Both Chelemes and Marone are hopeful a solution will come to fruition soon. The Culinary Institute is currently located in a building that can be expanded upwards.
“I hope they have the funds for that. A lot of people want to do it. They will attract a lot of students because there is nothing [like it] in Utah,” says Marone.