A new bachelor’s degree in Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality at Kennesaw State University moves the farm-to-table concept from the plate to the bottom line, looking at the economic advantages of implementing sustainable practices throughout the food service industry.
This week the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia approved the new interdisciplinary degree, which will be administered by Kennesaw State’s newly formed Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality.
“Kennesaw State leads the way in offering unique and relevant degree programsto serve our students and the employers who hire our graduates,” says president Daniel S. Papp. “The culinary field is a high-growth, high-demand market, and we are well positioned to offer a cutting-edge program that will attract outstanding students, as well as strong industry support.”
Designed by top industry experts, the bachelor’s degree program has been shaped to offer a unique approach to the study of culinary and hospitality management – infusing the curriculum with knowledge in sustainability, while also emphasizing food science, nutritional analysis, resource conservation, and essential business skills and abilities.
“In a restaurant context, a dollar in energy savings equates to $12.50 in restaurant sales, which at an 8 percent margin, increases the restaurant’s profitability without touching turnover or menu pricing,” says Christian Hardigree, director of Kennesaw State’s Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality. “In the culinary and hospitality industries there is a lot of talk about sustainability on the plate, but we need to enhance education of sustainability beyond the plate.”
Organizers expect to enroll 150 students in the program’s first year and upwards of 400 students in the fourth year. The first two courses, “Introduction to Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality” and “World Cuisines and Culture,” will be offered this fall. In addition to their formal classroom studies, students will be required to complete 600 hours of hands-on experience as they complete their course work.
Graduates of the innovative new degree program will be prepared to implement and manage sustainable practices in restaurants, hospitals, adult and child care facilities, food manufacturing and distribution, hotels and airlines, to name a few career options.
“The goal of this Institute is to be the epicenter for teaching and research as it relates to sustainable practices in culinary and hospitality management,” Hardigree says. “The typical American meal travels 1,500 miles to your plate, and it contains ingredients from five different countries. From all perspectives, buying local is better.”
One of the differentiators of the new degree program is the partnership it will have with Kennesaw State’s award-winning Culinary and Hospitality Services Department, which is renowned for its efforts in sustainability in its food service operation. The Culinary and Hospitality Services operates The Commons student dining hall and oversees the university’s “farm-to-table” food program.
“The academic program is designed so our students can intern with Culinary and Hospitality Services on campus, ensuring graduates will have consistency in their skill sets, and we will know the level of sustainability being taught through those internships,” Hardigree adds.
Through its farm-to-table program, Kennesaw State harvests honey from 42 bee colonies and grows herbs and heirloom variety fruits and vegetables on 65 acres across three organic campus farms, which the university owns or operates. Future plans include programs to produce aged cheese and organic dairy, olive orchards and an oil press on the farm.
“Students in Kennesaw State’s Institute for Culinary Sustainability and Hospitality will have opportunities here that they can’t get at other culinary schools — like bee keeping, hydroponics, and water reclamation,” says Gary Coltek, the university’s director of Culinary and Hospitality Services. “Sustainability is what the Institute is all about, and that’s what we live here every day.”
Just as The Commons procures its food locally, Coltek looks forward to the day when aspiring culinary professionals in Cobb County don’t have to look further than their own backyard for an education. Cobb County is home to 16 high school culinary programs whose students, talent, and tuition have gone elsewhere in the past. There are 80 such programs statewide.
“Hospitality is the second largest industry in the state, and we want to keep our talent local,” Coltek says.
Just last month the National Restaurant Association recognized Kennesaw State’s Department of Culinary and Hospitality Services as one of three finalists for the 2013 Operator Innovations Award in Sustainability.
In 2012, Kennesaw State University was listed in Princeton Review’s “Guide to 322 Green Colleges.”
Other recent accolades for the department and The Commons include top honors from the National Association of College and Food Services for sustainability outreach and education; a 10th place ranking in The Daily Meal’s “52 Best Colleges for Food in America”; and a top 25 ranking by Newsweek for best food on a college campus.