Fundraising begins for $10 million culinary center in Kennewick

Baking lessons, a cooking curriculum, farm-to-table meals, menu planning.

The ideas and enthusiasm cooked up for Columbia Basin College’s new culinary school continue to percolate as officials try to find $10 million to build the institute in Kennewick.

“Students are excited about the opportunity. Since the first news story came out, students have wondered when they can sign up. Well, we have to have the building first,” said Richard Cummins, president of the Pasco college.

The two-story, 20,000-square-foot culinary school will include a restaurant, event center and bakery storefront.

The project is a joint venture of the Port of Kennewick, city of Kennewick and CBC, and the group has a timeline of four years to secure money for it.

“The port, city and college have about a million dollars invested in the idea,” Cummins said. “Now we’ll go out and fund raise. We’ll explore state sources, local, private, corporate sources. We’ll be banging on a lot of doors in the coming years.”

The three partners also will begin meeting every few weeks on the ambitious fundraising goal.

“Anyone with a couple of million dollars who would like their name on the building—give them my number,” Cummins said. “We might be able to raise (the money) sooner (than the four-year timeline). That’d be wonderful.”

The school will be located at the port’s Columbia Gardens Wine & Artisan Village under construction on Columbia Drive.

The port started acquiring property several years ago to rehabilitate and revitalize the waterfront area near the cable bridge and broke ground on the project in May.

Last month Banlin Construction of Kennewick began construction on one of three wine buildings on the 16-acre site across from Zip’s and adjacent to Duffy’s Pond.

“This (project) is really going to help create a center of excellence for wine tourism in this region,” said Tana Bader Inglima, the port’s deputy CEO.

She said the port is in negotiations with prospective tenants interested in occupying the spaces and has had a tremendous amount of interest from wineries across the state.

“A wine village for small, boutique wineries gives people a chance to engage with the waterfront, and the wineries would start attracting business—the ancillary businesses—retail shops, that sort of thing,” she said.

For the last year and a half, Inglima said the port had been discussing an anchor tenant that’s complementary to wine businesses and said working with CBC is a perfect fit.

“It came to our attention there’s a need for culinary training—owners, managers, bakers and small artisans. We have a number of them, but we’d love to see more,” she said.

After the port’s conversation with CBC, the school got to work.

That included looking at what was feasible, what it would cost and what the culinary program would offer.

“We went to three or four cooking schools around the Northwest,” Cummins said. “There’s a curriculum the Culinary Institute of America has where you learn everything about kitchen operations and cooking—from broiling to sautéing and preparing salads.”

CBC would also offer baking courses, he noted, although it’s a shorter sequence of classes and would take a year to complete as opposed to two years under the cooking curriculum.

The school analyzed how many students would benefit if a culinary school was built—about 120—and started to develop core ideas, as well as the applied management bachelor program for students who wanted to start and run their own restaurant business.

But no programs have been finalized yet. Cummins envisions students preparing meals from farm to table as part of their grade. He also would like to see students develop a limited menu on a weekly or monthly basis, and allow the community to make reservations for a real dining experience.

“The thing about planning, of course, is as it gets closer to reality, different things will evolve,” said Cummins, who worked in restaurants and hotels until he was 27. “I think in an alternate reality, I would have gone into the culinary world. I love to cook. I wouldn’t say I’m great at it, but I’m looking forward to this school so I can learn—hopefully by osmosis.”

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