NWACC Culinary Program Preps for Bentonville Move

By Amye Buckley

Posted: October 20, 2015 at 1 a.m.

The culinary program for Northwest Arkansas Community College will move to Bentonville next year after board members approved a three-year lease Monday.

The vote means the college is the first tenant signed to the former Tyson Foods plant at 801 S.E. Eighth St. in Bentonville.

Construction has begun on the old Tyson building, Debi Buckley chief financial officer told the board Monday. The lease, which begins in July, would be contingent on construction being completed, she said.

Administrators at the school also will request approval from the state of two specialties within the associate of applied science culinary program, Evelyn Jorgenson, college president, told the board Monday night. One specialty will be in artisanal foods and the other in beverage management, pending approval from the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. Both programs would have accompanying technical certificates.

The school has specializations in baking/pastry and hospitality management now, said Glenn Mack, executive director of culinary arts.

The artisanal track would take into account the Old World skills for specialized areas such as bread, cheese or even pickles or meat, Mack said. But there also will be a focus on technology and developing new flavors.

"It isn't just looking back but certainly looking ahead," Mack said.

The move will mean more space but also more specialized space, Mack said. Instead of one older hospital kitchen, students will be able to use five new kitchens and six classrooms, he said.

And the school will be ringed with food-related business in its new location. That collection of culinary talent will bring energy to the program, Mack said. It will not just develop individuals but the future of restaurants in the region, he said.

The college's lease at the former Tyson plant will give them 27,500 square feet in the 65,742-square-foot building.

The culinary program is currently housed in 14,801 square feet in the Center for Nonprofits in Rogers.

The new building will cost about $14,000 more annually for the college, Buckley said. The current lease with the center is $161,923 per year, or $10.94 per square foot. The new lease will be for $175,500 per year, or $6.38 a square foot.

The number of students the school can accommodate will nearly double once it moves to the new space, Jorgenson said.

Consultants working with the school recommended the addition of the artisanal foods and the beverage management tracks to create a top-notch culinary school, Jorgenson said after the meeting.

Construction may be the next program for the school. Board members approved a position Monday to oversee a $54,075 grant that will develop a construction technology pathway working with Bentonville School District and John Brown University.

NW News on 10/20/2015