Lakes Region Community College Completes Physical Expansion for Culinary Arts Program
Laconia, NH – For the first time in the history of Lakes Region Community College, (LRCC), all hospitality programs will have their own state-of-the-art space on campus due to the completion of a multi-phased renovation. The just-completed phases two and three of the renovation include a culinary teaching lab and multi-purpose room that can serve as a restaurant, featuring state-of-the-art equipment and will enable the program to bring together the hospitality, cooking and baking components to give students a more holistic culinary arts educational experience. The community can also become involved through planned cooking and baking classes and demonstrations and will also have access to the new restaurant once campus reopens to the public.
Through a matching grant from the Northern Borders Regional Commission (NBRC) and support from area restaurants, two classrooms that were previously used for automotive technology were gutted and converted into a culinary kitchen teaching lab and a pastry lab kitchen and bakery. The former student lounge is being converted into a dining room where students will prepare meals and practice restaurant operations to outside customers as part of their training. The auto programs moved into new dedicated space in 2018, freeing up space for the hospitality programs.
“We’re so excited to add this full-service experiential component to our program. This vision of this expansion and being under one roof is becoming a reality and we cannot wait to fully open and welcome the public to buy baked goods or enjoy a full course lunch. Our students are really looking forward to cooking a variety of cuisines, waiting on people from the community and experiencing a real restaurant opening,” said Bill Walsh, department chair of culinary, pastry arts and hotel and restaurant operations.
According to the New Hampshire Restaurant and Lodging Association, there were more than 3,100 eating and drinking place locations in New Hampshire in 2019 that employed nearly 70,000 people. This is one of the largest sectors, accounting for 10% of all employment in the state. The Lakes Region, with its heavy focus on tourism, had 2,700 people employed in food services positions in 2020. LRCC plays a critical role in helping train people for positions in this field, which is a significant economic driver across the Lakes Region.
The original program focused on restaurant management and started in the historic Belmont Mill with about 15 students. Classes were held in their kitchen until structural problems forced the closure of the building. The program then moved to Shaker Village and eventually Concord High School, but eventually outgrew the spaces as enrollment neared 100 students. Hall, who came to LRCC in 2005, expanded the program to encompass hotel and restaurant operations and culinary arts and pastry arts programs were introduced.
Current programming includes an associate in science degree and certificate programs in culinary arts, hotel and restaurant operations and pastry. All programs include an experiential cooperative component designed to give students hands-on experience in a hospitality business at local establishments, usually in the busy summer season. Students also gain practical experience in the student-operated restaurant on campus. These experiential learning components are critical for student success.
“Our programs are built on partnerships to foster hands-on learning. Because of the many restaurants in the Lakes Region, we’re proud to have partnerships with the Common Man family restaurants, the NASAWA Resort in Meredith, T-Bones, Cactus Jacks, Fratello’s and Homestead restaurants that provide paid internships for our students,” Walsh said.
The new teaching restaurant located on campus will be open to the public for lunch beginning in the fall. The menu will feature a full course meal that will include a soup or salad, entrée and dessert. The style of the meal will vary depending upon the courses and will include US Regional Cuisine, Italian, Worldwide Cuisine and more. In addition, cooking classes and demonstrations available to the general public will be offered and are in the planning stages.