This past December I was invited to attend a reception at the Placerita Canyon home of Steve and Dianne Arklin to support the College of the Canyons Culinary Arts Capital Campaign. The invite read, “This is your chance to be part of a truly historic opportunity – where the love of fine food and good wine are paired with education and holiday cheer!”
After parking our cars at one home on the property we were whisked up to the “Tuscan Villa” via golf carts. The house, complete with a Mona Lisa replica that host Steve Arklin joked was the original, was decked out in sparkling holiday fixtures, wine tasting and live music. Guests mingled over a rich dinner and dessert buffet.
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Then the real show began.
Arklin, acting as our master of ceremonies announced, “We have food and wine paired together in just the right fashion.” He then introduced our first speaker, Chief Development Officer Murray Wood.
The first thing Wood did was to thank the Chairman of the Foundation Board, Diana Cusumano, and her husband, Gary, for sharing their private label wine and David Hunt, of Hunt Cellars, for also donating wine. He then noted several local dignitaries in attendance, naming and then nodding to Blair Salisbury, Ken Strickland, Gloria Mercado Fortine, Bruce Fortine, Greg and Tracy McWilliams, Bob Keller and Steve Lavine. (I also spied Jasmine Foster, Julie and Steve Sturgeon, Bill Miranda, as well as Jay and Shelly Schutz.)
Wood quickly moved on to stating that College of the Canyons needs a permanent home for its culinary arts program – and how the guests can help with their pledges tonight. Then came Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.
Dr. Van Hook, a charismatic speaker if you haven’t had the privilege of hearing her, got the group very excited as she retold the school’s history and then shared her future plans for the culinary arts department.
“We exist to help meet community needs. California students will be working in prestigious California kitchens…the food service industry is one our largest employer groups. And, as opposed to other culinary arts programs, ours is affordable.
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Van Hook quoted schools charging between $50,000 to $75,000 for a culinary arts education as opposed to College of the Canyons charging $46 per unit – which adds up to $2,000 to $5,000 in total.
Van Hook continued, “With the starting pay in a restaurant at about $14 an hour students want to take advantage of a lower cost education – and we have twice as many students. Our existing kitchen, in Castaic, is too far for students taking other classes on campus.” Also, with a new dining room that can seat 140, according to Van Hook, students will learn the important front-of-the-house skills during the class setting, and when the room is used for events.
Van Hook, in turn, invited Diana Cusumano to talk for a moment. Cusumano said, “I am challenging those here tonight to match my $25,000 grant, and if accepted, I will offer a second one!”
Chef Cindy Schwanke spoke about how excited she was by Dianne’s vision and then she drove home just how cluttered the school is and that the “need is desperate.” Schwanke proudly named off several graduates that are now employed in Santa Clarita Valley restaurants.
Steve Corn, our final brief speaker, reminded us how “we all love to eat” and deserve a “world-class facility in Santa Clarita that is better than Le Cordon Bleu.”
From the Website
We envision a 5,600-square-foot building in an architectural style that underlines both the simplicity of the reflective glass surfaces found on nearby structures and underlines an elegant sophistication appropriate for a building that will serve educational as well as social functions.
Individual elements include a “Show Kitchen,” a “Savory Kitchen,” a “Sweets Kitchen,” an area for “Wine Studies,” a “Culinary Lab space” and instructor office spaces.
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The current estimate for the cost of the new Culinary Arts building is about $4.7 million. Late in 2010, the college received outstanding news that the Library expansion project had come in $3 million under budget — and that savings can now be applied to the Culinary Arts project. That leaves a balance of $1.7 million to be raised.
Culinary Arts Programs
The Institute for Culinary Education at College of the Canyons currently offers:
- Certificate of Achievement in Culinary Arts
- Certificate of Specialization in Baking and Pastry
- Certificate of Specialization in Wine Studies
- Certificate of Specialization in Hospitality Wine Service
Culinary Arts programs that are currently in development:
- Associate in Arts Degree — Culinary Arts
- Additional Certificate in Wine Studies
- Additional degrees, certificates and programs that respond to the needs of the industry.
A facility such as the one envisioned here will help facilitate the expansion of Culinary Arts offerings.
The Santa Clarita Valley needs a modern, efficient, affordable, maintainable, and accessible education center where all aspects of the culinary arts can be taught to the highest possible standards. We envision a center, where instruction in the culinary arts will be conducted by the most talented and respected professionals available, at an affordable cost — and of the highest quality — that will encourage students of all ages and backgrounds who wish to pursue the culinary arts as a lifelong profession.
The National Restaurant Association’s statistics show that the industry employed 12.7 million people in the United States in 2010. It is one of the largest private sector employers in the United States with sales in excess of $580 billion.
The Santa Clarita Valley and the greater Los Angeles area are home to 2007 restaurants of all sizes and types. Among these restaurants are some of the finest established eateries in the country as well as ethnic and theme restaurants, the newest in fusion restaurants, and restaurants that combine the best of cultures, techniques and cutting-edge culinary ideas.
These restaurants will need well-trained, creative and passionate employees for generations to come, underlining the need for a permanent teaching facility on the College of the Canyons campus.
- A permanent home for the Culinary Arts program will enable us to train as many as 200 students each year in a wide variety of culinary specialties.
- The new Culinary Art facility will enable us to create a Culinary Arts Associate in Arts degree and a Certificate in Wine Studies as well as additional future programs.
- The college’s instruction in the Culinary Arts currently offers a Certificate of Achievement in Culinary Arts and a certificate of Specialization in Baking and Pastry.
We also offer Wine Studies and Hospitality Wine Service certificates of specialization.
Chief Development Officer
(661) 362-3433 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
College of the Canyons / College of the Canyons Foundation
26455 Rockwell Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91355
College: (661) 259-7800 l Foundation: (661) 362-3434