UNT college opens Marriott Culinary Lab for teaching cooking techniques
DENTON (UNT), Texas -- As hospitality management students at the University of North Texas begin preparing for the 2012 spring semester opening of The Club at Gateway Center, the university's student-run restaurant, they now have a space equal to some of the finest Food Network kitchens to learn cooking techniques.
The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation committed $300,000 to UNT's College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism to match $300,000 in Higher Education Assistance Funding for renovation of the college's culinary laboratory, which was created in the early 1990s. The laboratory is now named the Marriott Culinary Lab.
"We are grateful for the generous and ongoing support of the J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, and we thank them for helping us create a state-of-the-art lab for our students to hone their culinary skills," said Dr. Judith Forney, the college's dean.
Instruction in the laboratory, located on the third floor of UNT's Chilton Hall, is required as part of the Introduction to Professional Food Preparation class. Students must complete the class before they can work at The Club at Gateway Center. Two semesters of work at The Club is required for all hospitality management majors.
Jodi Duryea, a lecturer in the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism and a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, teaches Introduction to Professional Food Preparation. She said that in its almost 20 years of existence, the culinary lab had never been renovated.
The lab has 16 student work stations, with two students working at each station. While the laboratory's 16 stoves and 16 stainless-steel hoods over the stoves and work stations remain in the renovated space, the Marriott Culinary Lab is completely new in every other area, Duryea said.
"The lab is more like the industrial kitchens that the students will see when they graduate and get out into the hospitality management industry. We hope that the students will be able to work more efficiently in the new space," she said.
The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation is dedicated to helping youth secure promising futures, particularly through education on the secondary and higher education levels, mentoring, and youth leadership programs. Anne Gunsteens, executive director of the foundation, said the foundation decided to commit funds for the culinary lab renovations because the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism's mission aligns closely with the foundation's mission.
"When we see an effective program with strong leadership, we want to give to that program in some way," Gunsteens said. "UNT's hospitality management program has an excellent job placement rate and active involvement in the industry, and this new culinary lab will benefit students in the program by preparing them to become dedicated professionals."
The renovated culinary laboratory's cabinets, work tables and the instructor's demonstration table in the new laboratory are all stainless steel, replacing anything wooden. The sinks at each of the 16 work stations have been replaced by rows of sinks for every four stations to give students more room for food preparation at their stations. In addition, the laboratory, which formerly lacked a dishwasher, has an industrial-strength dishwasher and a pot sink area.
The gift from the Marriott Foundation allowed new equipment to be purchased for the laboratory, including 11 stand mixers to add to the five mixers the laboratory already has, and broilers. The new equipment will allow instruction in a larger variety of cooking techniques, including baking, Duryea said.
Dr. Lea Dopson, chair of the hospitality management program, called the laboratory "an exciting addition to our facilities that will enhance the quality of the learning environment for our students."
"The Marriott Foundation gift underscores the tremendous support we receive from industry partners for our ever-growing program," she said.
UNT's hospitality management major prepares students to work as managers in all areas of the hospitality management industry, from restaurants, hotels and resorts to cruise ships, bed-and-breakfasts and food service in schools and hospitals. More than 770 undergraduates were enrolled in hospitality management courses during the fall 2011 semester, ranking UNT's degree program the seventh largest in the nation for enrollment among U.S. colleges and universities that offer hospitality management.