Expansive New Facility Aims To Give LBCC Culinary Arts Students Real World Kitchen Experience

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Chef Professor Pierre Juès leads a tour of the school's new 27,000 square foot culinary arts facility. Photos: Jason Ruiz

Long Beach City College provided a sneak preview to media today of its new state-of-the-art culinary arts facility, set to open this fall. The new teaching space, located in Building V, shares over 73,000 square feet with the mathematics department, and was built with $44 million of Measure E bond money—funding that has financed a decade’s worth of improvements to both the Pacific Coast and Liberal Arts Campuses.

Chef Pierre Juès, the head of the Culinary Arts Department, led the tour of the dramatically larger facility. His students will have the opportunity to enjoy it after its August 24 opening.

The nearly 28,000 square feet that makes up the culinary arts portion of Building V houses seven new kitchens, including four main kitchen labs that average about 2,000 square feet. That trumps the old facility on the Liberal Arts Campus that had only one 1,200 square foot kitchen for both culinary arts and bakery/pastry art students. 

Juès moved from room to room, showing off mammoth prep kitchens. Two of each of these kitchens are dedicated to the two different disciplines taught in the program. He said the expanded teaching areas will allow for greater flexibility in course offerings and the times at which they are administered.

“We used to teach from six in the morning until eleven at night because of the one kitchen,” Juès said. “We won't have to with this one.”

All seven of the kitchens include fixtures on the ceilings for monitors that will allow students in all parts of the lab to be able to see what the instructor at the front of the room is doing. There’s also a demonstration kitchen that looks more like a television cooking show set than a classroom, as 74 tiered seats look down on a fully functional kitchen complete with grills, ovens and a wok. There is also a student-run restaurant and bakery counter that will be open three days a week to the public.

Professor's Haley Nguyen (left) and Juès speaking in front of the new student-run restaurant. 

Assistant Chef and Professor Haley Nguyen heads the culinary arts portion of the program and said eventually they’d like to offer both a fixed menu and à la carte items. However, with the first semester’s students only having about six days to learn the kitchen, it will be a little more simplified.

“For this coming semester, we're going to do a three-course preset menu for about $15,” Nguyen said. “It’s more for people to really get a glimpse, and after that we can branch out. We’re just going to have to see how the line works with the students.”

Before providing his input for the design of his department’s new home, Juès and Nguyen toured a dozen other campuses, including two in Chicago, before designing the new LBCC layout. Now, they’ll be able to “teach everything from cookies to ice cream” without students literally having to rub elbows because of cramped quarters.

Kimberlee Wareing, who’s set to graduate in the fall with an associate's degree in baking and pastry arts, said the new facility is light years away from the previous one. Wareing said often times students would jockey to use one of the two ovens in the old classroom because one didn’t work properly, which often extended the time it took to complete projects.

“In comparison, it would be like comparing a run-down trailer to a mansion,” Wareing said. “Everything here is just so much bigger, there’s so much more room, the equipment itself is phenomenal.”

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She said that when news broke that new culinary facility wasn’t going to open on schedule, last semester's students, especially those set to graduate this year, were devastated. But with its official opening, Wareing said the improvements in facilities and the addition of the student-run restaurant and store-front bakery will be invaluable to their careers.

“I think it’s going to be an extreme advantage for students, because they’re not just thrown into a career,” Wareing said. “Even though it’s something they want to do, they get that experience and they know how to go through the steps of what is required of you in that type of environment. I think it’s going to work great for the students.”

Nguyen and Juès said the previous setting made it difficult for the program to grow, with lack of space being a major factor. But with the added space, they estimated they could easily double or possibly triple the 250 students the program currently services, putting an end to the misconception that LBCC doesn’t have a culinary program. In fact, Juès said this program could make the college a go-to space for culinary students in Southern California. The school said 85 new students are already signed up for the fall semester.

No matter how fast the program grows, Nguyen made it clear they want to be able to provide a learning platform for all students, because of the multiple career paths available in the industry. Whether they want to be a sous chef, baker or in hospitality services, she wants to write a curriculum that will be helpful to all.

“We want to be able to service that so every student that comes here will be able to advance their career and at least get the certificate here, get the program here and have it help their career,” Nguyen said. “Wherever they want to go into, we want to be able to service that.”

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