Christina Ranck is the first graduate of the Culinary Institute of  the South’s baking and pastry arts associate degree program.  She is currently finishing her associate degree in culinary arts and  will head to Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, this summer to complete a highly competitive baking and confectionery internship.

Growing up, Christina Ranck liked to watch cooking shows, make meals for her family and of course, bake. So it only seems fitting that Ranck is the first to graduate from TCL’s baking and pastry arts program at the Culinary Institute of the South.

Baking cookies was something she and her dad particularly enjoyed doing together — especially around the holidays.

“Every year, we would bake Christmas cookies for his office,” Ranck said, adding that they even began keeping a database of the recipes they enjoyed or wanted to explore. “I think we have about 1700 recipes in there now.”

Ranck finished her program in December — just in time for the holiday baking season. In fact, she and her classmates helped distribute more than 500 cookies made by students at the culinary institute for the Town of Bluffton’s tree lighting event in December.

She now holds an associate in applied science in baking and pastry arts. But TCL hasn’t seen the last of her yet. The 20-year-old is also working to finish an associate degree in Culinary Arts Technology, which she expects to complete in May.

In the meantime, her instructors have only words of praise for her drive and enthusiasm. “We are very proud of Christina, as she has shown to us her drive to excel in the baking and pastry field through her dedication, creativity and passion in her work,” said Chef Jacqueline Orak, Baking and Pastry Arts Program Director. “She brings natural enthusiasm and devotion for learning that makes an instructor feel as they have accomplished their purpose of being a teacher.”

Christina Ranck shows off her hand-decorated tier cake she created as part of her advanced cakes class at the Culinary Institute.

Ranck has been there since the beginning. She started her program at TCL’s New River campus in 2019 and watched as an entirely new campus devoted to hospitality and culinary arts sprung up at Buckwalter Place in Bluffton.

But it wasn’t just the building that impressed her, it was also the environment and the school itself.

“I liked how diverse it was,” said Ranck. “We’re all different ages and everyone gets along and works together. It’s a very supportive environment.”

While in school, Ranck gained “real-world” experience working for a local bakery and also for Montage Hotel Palmetto Bluff, a high-end resort in the Palmetto Bluff community. After she graduates in May, she will go to work at Hersheypark in Hershey, Pennsylvania, where she already has an internship lined up.

As she detailed, the family theme park which features roller coasters and restaurants, also has a large-scale baking and confectionery operation.

“They do so much cool work,” she said excitedly.

Asked what she hopes to do there, Ranck doesn’t hesitate.

“I’ll be doing whatever they need me to do,” she said. “But I plan to learn everything they do, from start to finish.”


The Culinary Institute of the South at the Technical College of the Lowcountry is already experiencing rapid growth. In fact, enrollment in culinary and hospitality programs has nearly tripled since classes began in 2019:

Fall 2019Fall 2020Fall 2021Fall 2022
No. Students33516992

In addition to three primary tracks that students choose from — baking and pastry arts, culinary arts and hospitality — TCL also offers certificate programs as well as personal enrichment classes for adults who just want to drop in and take a class or two for fun or personal enjoyment.

The culinary institute also boasts of two student-run eateries: The Bistro, which offers a fine-dining experience, and The Clist Café, a grab-and-go café featuring a variety of breads, pastries, soups and sandwiches along with coffee, tea and other beverages.

What’s more, in 2022, the institute welcomed new Dean Dr. Francine Marz. Chef Marz has over 30 years of industry experience, most recently serving as Culinary Director for Northampton Community College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. “I’m very excited about the building and all the potential opportunities that are here,” Chef Marz said after arriving in the Lowcountry.

Last but certainly not least, the culinary institute will serve as home to one of the Lowcountry’s most unique attractions when it opens in late 2023. The FOODseum will offer an interactive museum experience to visitors and feature revolving and permanent exhibits and artifacts as well as guest lecturers and hands-on seminars.


The Culinary Institute of the South is a 30,000+ square foot, two-story facility which opened in 2021 with a community-wide celebration.

Features four fully-outfitted teaching kitchens, a culinary auditorium, a baking lab, a teaching restaurant, a café, eight multi-purpose classrooms and a ballroom.

The school was made possible through a partnership with Beaufort County, Beaufort County School District and the Town of Bluffton. In addition, funds came from the State of South Carolina and private sources.