An expansion to the Culinary Arts Program at Rend Lake College is coming close to completion. Students are already benefitting from the finished half of the project that will effectively double the size of the program.
The roughly $525,000, 1,500 square-foot expansion welcomed its first class on Nov. 19. Students worked with the instructors from new stainless-steel work tables and trained on brand-new equipment. Eventually, video cameras fixed on the chef’s table at the head of the classroom will be installed and a live-feed will be projected on a large screen so students can watch, imitate and learn.
The new lab means more students, more classes and more developed training with cutting-edge equipment. There are some fantastic additions, including a four-deck, steam-injected artisan bread oven; four Vulcan ranges with a 25-foot-long hood; a steam-jacketed kettle; and a 60-quart dough mixer.
“We still have more things planned,” said Chef Instructor Loughton Smith. “There are still things coming in the future, once we are able to get funding for them.”
The project began in June and is expected to be complete in time for the beginning of spring semester classes in January. It is now half finished.
“The real hard construction is done,” Smith said. “The dining room will mostly involve interior finishing work, but the kitchen was structural work. We dug up the floor and put in structural beams. The hard part is done. The loud part is done.”
A dining facility is currently under construction and will be used to train students taking dining room and banquet management, as well as for meetings. While students are serving food in the dining room, students in restaurant operations will be preparing the meals from the new lab next door.
“We will probably end up doing between eight and 12 dinners this coming semester for the public,” Smith said.
Unique features were incorporated into the renovation design. There is a two-door refrigerator with a retarder that slows dough fermentation, and a hydraulic lift that allows transportation of carts and food warming cabinets from the lower kitchen to the new kitchen and vice versa. Additionally, passers-by can watch students in action through hallway windows and a lighted window display cabinet will feature future food creations from the program.
For more information about what the culinary arts program at RLC has for you, call 618-437-5321, Ext. 1332.