Culinary Arts Center

TCC secures $872K in grants for Culinary Arts Center
Posted on 08/22/2022
Preliminary rendering of the future Culinary Arts Center.

A $500,000 Community Development Block Grant was approved by the Missouri Department of Economic Development one month ago toward a state-of-the-art Culinary Arts Center to be constructed on the Poplar Bluff Technical Career Center campus.

Another $267,000 was awarded in May for ancillary expenses through the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Area Career Center Construction Project fund, along with about $104,000 toward equipment last year through matching enhancement grants, all sought out by TCC Director Charles Kinsey.

A decision was made during the February Board of Education meeting to go forward with the estimated $1.3 million project regardless of the funding mechanism in an effort to further consolidate secondary programming for students while vacating the present Mules Café in tandem with the Administrative Building relocating downtown.

“There are multiple revenue streams for this project—and we appreciate the partnership we have with Ozark Foothills Regional Planning Commission [on submitting the CDBG] as well as Mr. Kinsey’s further efforts coordinating with DESE to secure funds—but either way, the district is committed to the construction of this new Mules Café," R-I Superintendent Dr. Scott Dill stated in June. “Adopting ProStart curriculum was a big move that ensures endorsement that our students are workforce ready. Food service is a major contributor to the local economy, and we are proud to do our part producing students who are prepared.”

Dille and Pollard Architecture produced a preliminary architectural report of the proposed 3,240-square-foot facility with a dining area, kitchen, classroom, dry storage, office space and restrooms connecting to the existing 1,400-square-foot employee break room on the west end of the TCC campus. According to Brandon Moon, culinary arts instructor, the move will allow for teacher collaboration as well as increased visibility to hopefully boost student participation.

"Having a well-thought-out entry, dining room and kitchen will allow for so much better of a time for both students and patrons," chef Moon said. “…My goal with the new environment is to make sure it is as realistic of an opportunity as possible for students to learn different skills in cooking, baking and serving the public.”

The program relocation on campus will offer increased instructional time for students currently being bused to North Westwood Boulevard, Kinsey added. The Mules Café has shared space with the district’s central office operation for over 40 years, according to the 2021 preliminary report. Workflow has been a challenge in the current 2,880-square-foot facility for students learning techniques while serving the public, program officials have cited.

“Any program offering must have an impact in the community in an area that’s needed. A workforce better prepared with better skills, is gonna be a good fit for the overall vision of our staff and myself for the Career Center’s enhancement,” Kinsey explained. “Each step begets success, and success begets more momentum.”

According to the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center, there will be nearly 4,900 openings statewide in food service management, and well over 300 vacancies per year for cooks in the service region of the TCC’s sending schools, Kinsey pointed out. “It’s a strong area for our region – one of the top 10 hottest professions,” he noted.

“I anticipate new opportunities for introductory classes, a partnership with family consumer science and maybe even outside training for the local restaurant industry,” Kinsey continued. “We want to have the capacity to be able to work with all schools and adults in our area in a facility that is seen as state-of-the-art.”

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Cutline: A rendering of the future Culinary Arts Center west of the Poplar Bluff Technical Career Center campus, as part of an architectural report, was presented to the Board of Education in May 2021.

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