Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Cooking school gaining momentum

Grant decision expected in mid-November

Express Staff Writer

The site of the former Elkhorn Springs Market in Sun Valley is being considered as a possible headquarters for a new culinary institute. Express file photo

    A proposed local culinary school is moving from idea toward reality with the selection of a name—Culinarium Sun Valley—and the launch of a website,
Local economic development organization Sustain Blaine and the College of Southern Idaho have been partners working toward creating the proposed institution for almost two years. Sustain Blaine Executive Director Harry Griffith said CSI is applying for a federal grant that could “fast-track” the process.
    Griffith said the school applied for the grant in mid-October and is competing with three or four other educational institutions for several million dollars. Griffith said he expects to hear whether the program will receive funding in mid-November. If CSI is able to procure significant funding, he said, the program could open as soon as late spring or next summer.
    “In the event we are able to secure this grant, either fully or partially, it would serve as a catalyst to fast-track this project because the funding can be used to pay operating costs, supplies and other program expenditures,” he said.
    One proposed location for the institute is the former Elkhorn Springs Market in Sun Valley, though an as-yet-unspecified site in Ketchum is also an option. Griffith said he hopes CSI makes a decision on the location by the end of the year.
    The culinary institute would have two components. One would be a year-long certificate program expected to grow into a two-year program for young professionals. On the non-academic side, there would be courses for food enthusiasts during the day, nights and weekends, as well as over the holidays, targeted toward tourists ages 40 and up.
    Griffith said he has spent an immense amount of time for almost two years trying to get the program off the ground, and is adamant about the potential community benefits.
“This is a project that everyone likes,” he said. “It unites the community in terms of their interest and support. It’s so important in terms of diversifying our economy and leveraging into the tourism base.”
    Griffith said CSI is working on details regarding curriculum design, operating standards, procedures, licensing and integration of the culinary operations with the community in terms of apprenticeship programs with local restaurants.
    He said the education provided at the Culinarium would be very practical and would give students the chance to complete apprenticeships with restaurants at Sun Valley Resort, The Kneadery and Cava Cava.
    “The support from the restaurants here has been fantastic,” he said. “Their support is critical for two reasons. The first reason is we want to structure this as an apprenticeship program in which students gain experience in food arts. They get to practice that in the local restaurants, and local restaurants gain resources that are qualified and actually have a passion for food. The other reason is it will put Sun Valley even more on the map in terms of its culinary offering. This has the opportunity to gain new business and new visitors.”
    Griffith said he hopes this program would further tap into the 27.5 million culinary tourists in the U.S. Additionally, he said conservative estimates indicate 5,000 new annual visitors as a result of the program. He said the tuition rate would be very competitive compared to private culinary schools that cost $40,000 to complete. CSI has chosen to run the program under community-college pricing in which people could spend as little as $10,000-$14,000 for their education.
    “My question I always ask people is, ‘What you would prefer?’” Griffith said. “Would you rather go live in a little shack in New York City, and when you’re not working at school you’re working crazy hours at a restaurant. Or, you could live in Sun Valley and get in a few ski runs, a bike ride in between work and pay a lot less while leveraging existing contacts Sun Valley has with its existing restaurateurs and the business community.”
Eric Avissar:

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