Beaufort County, Bluffton could help fund Culinary Institute

You love to eat.. who doesn’t?

But what if your favorite restaurant has to close. Not because they aren’t busy, but because they can’t find folks to work there.

Its a growing problem in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head, one the Technical College of the Lowcountry has a plan to fix.

The school wants to build a 34,000 square foot, $12.5 million Culinary Arts Institute in Buckwalter Place.

“The whole thing with culinary school is its based on demand and we know there’s demand for it,” explained Richard Gough, President of TCL of the Lowcountry.

But the demand is much greater than the facilities they have now, which are usually borrowed from one fo the high schools.

“We are doing it catch as catch can,” said Gough. “We are doing it on weekends, we are doing it at night, We are not really meeting the demand and we are not providing a broad breadth of training.”

Training which is in demand, not only in restaurants but at assisted livings, plantations and even grocery stores.

“Put in chef and Beaufort. 54 hits just for that,” says Mary Lee Carns, TCL Vice President for Institutional Advancement.

A new facility according to Carns, could accomodate up to 400 students.

“The talent pool is not very big” said Brandon Carter

Brandon Carter is the owner and Chef at the Farm in Bluffton.

He says while his staff is good, many other restaurants are struggling, even working shorter weeks because they don’t have enough people with proper training.

“Its an epidemic in our industry right now,” said Carter. “Big cities, small towns its becoming harder and harder to find talent.”

But should Beaufort county help pay for that talent?

TCL says without monetary help, the parking lot at Buckwalter Place stays empty.

“Our support we get from the state the county and the tuition and fees of our students only covers the actual cost of instruction, there is not money to expand programs that are important to expand,” said Carns.

An expansion that means more jobs, as many as 500 new ones in our area by 2020, and more chances for folks to enjoy good, educated food.

“Its a if you build it they will come mentality,” smiled Carter.

The Bluffton and Hilton Head Chambers of Commerce have given their blessing to the idea, and Bluffton’s town council is supposed to start talking financing at Thursday night’s meeting.

If the money comes through, the school could be open and cooking by the Fall of 2018.

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