By Leigh Copeland
Food has a way of bringing people together. And now, it has a special opportunity to close the gap between industry and workforce in the Lowcountry.
The Culinary Institute of the South at Technical College of the Lowcountry is set to open in the fall of 2020 in Bluffton’s Buckwalter Place. This 26,000 square-foot facility has received more than $11.5 million in local funding from Beaufort County, Beaufort County School District and the Town of Bluffton.
The reason for the investment? Simple but important: the resort and tourism industry, the Lowcountry’s main economic driver, is facing a critical workforce shortage. The culinary sector in particular is suffering and desperately needs a locally trained, professional workforce to remain healthy and competitive.
The Culinary Institute of the South seeks to help fill this workforce gap and will offer associate degrees and certificates in a variety of in-demand culinary disciplines and specialties.
Graduates will be prepared for professional food service positions in hotels, resorts, restaurants, healthcare facilities and more and can expect starting salaries from $30,000 to $50,000 annually. With time and experience, those positions can lead to higher-paid management positions
The Institute has space for up to 300 students and will feature six academic classrooms, two teaching kitchens, two bake labs, a lecture theater and a teaching restaurant.
Also integral to the Institute is The Interpretive Center, an interactive museum that will showcase immersive exhibits, guest lecturers and hands-on seminars. The Center is the first of its kind in the South and will attract residents and tourists alike to discover the true story of Southern food.
Visual displays will preserve Lowcountry agriculture and farming history and will showcase artifacts such as kitchen utensils, farming tools, recipes and cookbooks. Photographs and videos will feature local chefs as well as home cooks and their stories. Revolving exhibits will showcase themes such as Gullah, Geechee, Seafood, Farm to Table and more.
And like any good culinary endeavor, the better the chef, the better the experience.
“The Institute will elevate culinary as a profession and as an industry here in the Lowcountry,” Huff said.
Chef Huff is an American Culinary Federation (ACF) Certified Culinary Educator (CCE), an Approved Certification Evaluator (ACE), and a National Restaurant Association (NRA) ServSafe instructor and test proctor.
He is a graduate of Johnson and Wales and also holds a bachelor’s degree in workforce development and a master’s degree in management. He served more than 25 years in the United States Air Force and Air Force Reserves. Most recently, Chef Huff served as the culinary coordinator for the hugely successful Culinary Institute of Charleston at Trident Technical College.
It’s Chef Huff’s passion for students that really sets him apart. His standards are high but his personal approach in the classroom helps students succeed. In addition, he is dedicated to expanding partnerships with area high schools, which will enhance the pipeline to TCL’s programs and to local employers.
The College seeks to raise an additional $2 million dollars in private contributions to support student scholarships and start-up costs.
Without a doubt, TCL’s Culinary Institute of the South will enhance the college’s relevance to the community while enriching the culinary industry across the South.
“It’s going to be a destination for students and visitors alike,” Huff said. “I can taste it.”
Contact Chef Miles Huff at 843.470.6046 or firstname.lastname@example.org