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Clark College culinary facility gets $4 million boost

New institute to be named for Tod and Maxine McClaskey

By , Columbian Education Reporter
Published: May 18, 2016, 7:51pm
2 Photos
Architectural renderings show the new culinary education space to be built at Clark College by summer 2017. (Renderings courtesy of Clark College Foundation)
Architectural renderings show the new culinary education space to be built at Clark College by summer 2017. (Renderings courtesy of Clark College Foundation) Photo Gallery

The $10.5 million project to remodel Clark College’s culinary education facility has received a $4 million boost.

President Bob Knight announced the gift from the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Family Foundation at a celebration for donors Wednesday night.

The remodeled facility will be known as the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute at Clark College. It will showcase both the Cuisine and the Professional Baking and Pastry Arts programs.

The gift will change the face of the college’s culinary building and enhance the student learning experience, said Genevieve Howard, Clark’s dean of career and technical education.

A redesign of the building includes a glass facade visible from the parking lot on the north end of campus. The space will feature outdoor dining, an open-concept contemporary restaurant, four kiosks offering cooked-to-order choices, soups and sandwiches, salads and a variety of ethnic and food-sensitive choices. A full-service bakery will serve artisanal desserts, breads and offer a barista station. Clark’s restaurant will return, modeled after modern, open-kitchen dining establishments. All services will be open to the public.

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“Like other top culinary schools, there will be glass walls for customers to see production in the kitchen,” said Aaron Guerro, executive chef instructor and head of the culinary arts department. “The restaurant will be an open kitchen so diners can watch. That puts the students in the frame of mind like the real industry, being self-aware.”

The baking kitchen also will have windows so people can watch the bakers at work.

“We’re very excited about the open kitchen,” said Alison Dolder, the professional baker who heads the professional baking and pastry arts program. “People like to watch their food being prepared. They’ll see bakery students operating the machinery and pulling loaves of bread from the oven.”

The renovation is long overdue. The culinary facility was considered state-of-the-art when it was built in 1980. Some equipment has been upgraded since then, but no structural or cosmetic changes have been made.

In the past, the kitchen, bakery and restaurant were hidden inside Gaiser Hall with no exterior visibility.

“We called ourselves the best-kept secret in Vancouver,” Dolder said. “People from our campus would come in and didn’t know we had a bakery.”

“It’s going to be great for the college, but it’s really going to be great for the program,” said Howard, who noted the remodel will raise the program’s visibility considerably. “We liked to hide it before. Now you don’t need a secret password to be able to get into the culinary space.”

Clark’s cuisine program began in 1958.

The cuisine program has been on hiatus since winter quarter 2014 in order to revamp the program. The baking program has continued, but the last five baking students will graduate by summer quarter. Both programs will be ready to accept new students in the summer of 2017. Initially there will be 40 slots in the cuisine program and 30 slots in the baking program.

It’s not just the physical space that’s getting a face-lift. Both programs — cuisine and baking — also are being revamped. An updated curriculum will align with industry standards and prepare the college to be accredited by the American Culinary Federation.

Clark College has spent more than a year preparing for the project, said Tim Petta, Clark’s director of facilities. The design work was completed by Yost Grube Hall Architecture of Portland.

Bids for the remodel are due May 24.

“After bids, the state has to vet the contractor — the low bidder — to ensure the contractor can do the work,” Petta said.

The target to begin construction is the middle of June. Anticipated completion is by summer quarter 2017, when both the academic program and campus food service will begin.

Guerra listed components that will set Clark’s cuisine program apart from other programs. First, it is taking technical skills back to fundamentals, such as the technique for boning a chicken, knowing the three components of mousse or the steps for making stock, he said.

Second, the revamped program will develop students’ soft skills, such as thinking critically and developing people skills.

Third, Clark’s program will be the only nonprofit culinary program within 120 miles that will be American Culinary Foundation accredited, Guerra said.

Fourth is the reasonable price. Clark’s two-year culinary degree program will cost about $13,000. That’s compared to private, for-profit cooking schools in the metro area, which charge from $29,000 up to $45,000.

“Comparatively speaking, we’ll be very economical,” Guerra said. “There won’t be anything like it around.”

Tod McClaskey was one of the founders of the Red Lion Hotel Vancouver at the Quay, a popular hotel and restaurant enterprise that began in Vancouver.

Lisa Gibert, president of the Clark College Foundation, said naming the institute after the McClaskeys is a perfect way to honor their memory.

“Tod believed in first-class service and an excellent dining experience,” she said. “The Red Lion was also the launching pad for hundreds of careers in the hospitality business for this region and beyond. That light of excellence for the McClaskeys will now shine for generations.”

“Clark’s new culinary program fits my family’s ideals for excellent food preparation and management, as well as collaborating with other state educational organizations,” said Jillian Hagstrom, granddaughter of Tod and Maxine McClaskey.

Clark College Foundation is tasked with raising the additional money needed for the project. In addition to the $4 million McClaskey gift, the foundation has raised $60,000 for Clark’s Cuisine and Professional Baking and Pastry Arts project, said Rhonda Morin, foundation spokeswoman.