You can see precisely how the wedding photography will take shape: the bride’s train descending down the stairs, the smiling bridesmaids and groomsmen staggered along the wrought-iron railings under the gentle light of chandeliers.
In fact, Hospitality Programs chairman Rey Wojdat fully expects SUNY Broome’s new Culinary and Event Center to be a premier local destination for weddings. It’s easy to see why: the striking visuals from the staircase, the airy event space beyond with its hardwood floor and nearby cocktail lounge, and the amenities that allow servers to transport food from refrigerators and kitchens below without being seen.
“Place and appearance matters. It’s a big deal,” Dr. Wojdat said.
Wearing their black uniform jackets with the CEC logo, students in SUNY Broome’s Hospitality Programs paused to admire the details, often taking pictures on their cell phones. On Nov. 8, they toured their future academic home, getting an in-depth look at its state-of-the-art facilities.
Scheduled to open for its first classes this Winter Term, the $20 million center continues to take shape, from the second-floor commercial kitchens to the first-floor demonstration kitchen, which will hold such specialty classes as bean-to-bar chocolate-making. Rooms are highly versatile, able to accommodate multiple needs and even host two large-scale events at the same time.
“Nobody else in the world has a room like this one!” Professor Wojdat, told students as they entered the future beverage lab.
Instructors will be able to watch students at work at any point in the room – not only in the beverage lab, but in the kitchens and elsewhere in the building. Computer labs mean that students needn’t return to the main campus to tackle other assignments. With custom-made stoves, specialty equipment such as self-cleaning hoods and chilled countertops – ideal for aspic work — and aesthetic touches that preserve its history as the Carnegie Library, the facility truly combines the best of old and new.
Like any successful hospitality enterprise, it’s expected to earn revenue through event hosting and other avenues.
“When you’re in the kitchen, it’s not all about cooking. It’s really about making money in the end,” Wojdat explained. “It has to be sustainable. You’ll see sustainability built into this operation.”
Bartending, cooking and wedding planning are all stand-alone skill sets that can lead to lucrative careers in the industry, Dr. Wojdat noted. While the new Culinary Arts degree program can’t immediately turn you into a chef – that takes many years of “perfect practice,” he explained – students will master the basics, from knife work to ratio cooking to mise en place.
Success in hospitality, however, depends a good deal on commitment, work ethic and a literal willingness to roll up your sleeves. During his 40 years in the industry, he ruined a number of Brooks Brothers suits fixing equipment such as dishwashers, he noted. Students should expect to do the same.
Anna Mizera is among the college’s very first Culinary Arts class, and plans to become a pastry chef.
“It’s definitely exciting,” she said of the facility. “I’m looking forward to learning there.”
It’s a sentiment shared by her fellow Hospitality Hornets.
“So what do you guys think?” Dr. Wojdat asked after the tour wrapped up.
“It’s awesome!” a student shouted while others cheered.