Now they’re really cooking at Clark College

Students get taste of new Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter



Soup’s on for Clark College culinary students, where the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute is open for classes and business.

On Tuesday, the warm smell of roasting beef and chicken bones, undercut with the sharp tang of grated lemon zest, filled the newly opened kitchen as students cooked broth and prepared lemonade in anticipation of a ribbon-cutting celebration later that afternoon. It was the fourth day that students had been in the new building, which will house revamped Cuisine Management and Baking and Pastry Arts curriculums. Baking students will move into the space later.

“We have every tool to teach the students how to do it right,” cuisine instructor Aaron Guerra said, standing in the 20,615-square-foot facility as students bustled around him.

Tuesday’s unveiling of the $10.5 million building came after about two months of construction delays, and work is still ongoing. But already, Guerra said, it’s a vast improvement over what culinary students used when the program was put on hold nearly five years ago, as well as the temporary space they’ve been housed in this year at Clark College’s Mill Plain campus.

In the kitchen, students have five lines to spread out across, while the bakery features a bread room and a cooler chocolate-working room. Windows in the bakery open up for public view, allowing visitors to watch as students work.

“It’s completely reimagined for the 21st century,” Guerra said.

Most Clark College students and the public, however, will spend most of their time in the dining room, an expansive space off of Gaiser Hall where visitors can grab a meal. The building includes three food kiosks, a baking retail store and coffee shop, and grab-and-go items. Next year, an additional kiosk and a full-service, student-run restaurant will open.

College food services staff and culinary students will tag team working at the dining counters, helping students build real-world experience while attending school, said Genevieve Howard, Clark College’s dean of workforce, career and technical education.

“It allows them to really get those foundational skills,” Howard said.

Those foundational skills are already helping Aaron Welton, a 35-year-old Battle Ground resident. Welton has been cooking in restaurants for years and currently works at The Springs Food and Spirits in Vancouver.

“It’s making me a better cook so far,” Welton said.

Welton, bolstered by Vancouver’s thriving dining scene, hopes eventually to land an executive position in the area.

“It’s exciting being in the first class through here,” Welton said.