A brilliant November sun welcomed the people who turned out Monday to tour Grayson College’s new Culinary Arts Center. Once the ribbon cutting outside concluded, those on hand went inside to see the kitchens and dining area and to taste the food that had been prepared.
Steve Davis, dean of workforce education, welcomed the crowd to the new facility, located on the main campus, east of the college residence hall.
“This actually got started about three and a half years ago when Dr. Roy Renfro and Dr. Ken English came to Dr. Hardin and I and said, with the increase in the industry around here in hospitality management and culinary, especially with the increase in the Choctaw and the Winstar complexes, we needed to take a look at putting together some kind of program to provide employ ability.”
He said a staff member wrote a proposal, and the school received a $1 million Doleta Grant to help pay wages and purchase equipment and furnishings for the building.
The college provided the facility and the word began to spread that GC was planning a program. Davis said before the building was even completed, students were signing up for classes.
He said that in the fall of 2011, well before the building was completed, the program had an enrollment of 132 students. That number increased to 145 students in the spring and to more than 200 by the Fall 2012.
Learning to cook in the program is not the only way locals can get involved, Davis said. He explained that the program’s students open the dining area up to the public twice a week.
The student-run restaurant, serves lunch on Wednesday and Fridays during the semester. A press release about the Center said the service on Wednesdays focuses on an ala carte-style menu in a casual atmosphere. On Fridays, the restaurant offers a fine-dining experience with a $10 prix fixe menu that includes drink, appetizer, entrée and dessert.
Hannah Sbarbaro of Sherman was one of the students of the program who was on hand to welcome the community. She said she actually started going to school to learn about fitness but decided that wasn’t the best choice for her. “I decided I love food, (so I) Googled some schools I could go to and saw that Grayson offered a program,” she explained.
She said it was nice that she could stay in her hometown and “get a great education at an affordable cost.”
“We have been stressed, excited, learning a bunch of new recipes to get ready for the event,” she admitted as a line of people snaked its way from the drive way outside of the building to the buffet tables in the dining area.
Looking sharp in her white coat, Sbarbaro, said she and her fellow students actually eat, sleep and watch food. The second semester student said a final in the course actually resembles the challenges on “Chopped.” “You have to do a mystery basket and prepare to show that we know how to do different (components) like beef or chicken,” she added.
Though she loved to eat, Sbarbaro said she had only been a waitress before enrolling in the cooking classes. “Most of this is brand new to me. There’s a lot of experienced students who know a lot more, so you learn from them also,” she said.
Monday many people in the community were learning about the program and the variety of food offered there.
Davis said he had already learned a few things about his taste preferences from tastings at the program. He said he now knows he doesn’t care for caviar
The menu is posted on the program’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/graysonculinaryarts. Reservations are required for seating at 11 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and noon. Reservation phone number is 903-415-2605.