Could Castleton add culinary arts?

Hunter Jackob, background, and Isabelle Hardina, foreground, compete during the NECI Culinary Classic last fall. Three Stafford Culinary students attended and placed 3rd.
Bri Barker / Spartan Contributor

Every summer, Castleton College President Dave Wolk meets with the admissions team looking for ways to increase enrollment. Although not the most common request the team hears on the road, adding a culinary arts program at Castleton comes up quite frequently, according to Dean of Admissions Maurice Ouimet.

A culinary program isn’t currently in the works, but it is an idea that has been tossed around recently.

“We are always open to new program ideas,” Ouimet said. “President Wolk always wants to know what are students asking for?”

Currently, no Vermont State College offers a culinary arts program although Community College of Vermont offers cooking courses and the New England Culinary Institute is located in Montpelier. Ouimet and his admissions teams currently advise prospective culinary students to look towards NECI if they are interested in culinary arts.

NECI students run and work at a bakery-café in Montpelier to gain real world experience and to help pay the costs of the program. Castleton senior Nate Koenemann, a Montpelier native, believes that there are opportunities for a culinary program here.

“Castleton could integrate itself within the community through catering or a small restaurant,” he said.

Greg Lynch is the director of Culinary Arts at Stafford Technical Center in Rutland.

Stafford Technical students participate in many real world applications of their skills, Lynch said.

“The Dollhouse is a byproduct of our program, so yes I do think it’s successful and an important part of our instruction as well as the Bakeshop. We sell our food products to students, faculty and staff. Also we run a catering business, on and off premise, and finally a Friday night take-out business. All of these businesses are student-run and imperative to our program instruction,” Lynch said.

Some students feel a culinary program could better help prepare students for living on their own by offering basic culinary instructions and providing basic skills. Senior Psychology major Mariah Lesure says that she would be very interested in taking culinary classes.

 “We already have a broad range of majors and adding a culinary program could be helpful to the number of students enrolled,” Lesure said.

Sophomore Seth Wilmott doesn’t believe a culinary program would increase enrollment significantly, but he thinks it would be another thing for prospective students to consider.

Students theorized that a culinary program at Castleton could also succeed in improving the quality of the Dining Hall and said Huden chefs could also improve their skills by taking courses at the college.

Jamie Chernesky is a culinary student at Newbury College, outside of Boston. She believes that a culinary education is a fun, engaging major and that she “feels well equipped to get a job right out of school.” Chernesky obtained a head pastry chef position during her second year of school.

Adding a culinary program at Castleton could boost enrollment as well increase the college’s community engagement.

“I do think students from our program would attend a Culinary program at Castleton,” Lynch said. “It would be a big benefit for those students who do not want to travel far for their culinary degree.”

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