Iowans who hope to become the next TV super-chef like Bobby Flay, Paula Deen or Rachael Ray no longer have to go to New York or Paris. The Institute for the Culinary Arts is holding an open house this afternoon and evening at Metropolitan Community College in Omaha. College spokeswoman Sheila O’Connor says the new facility is state of the art and offers training in a wide range of cooking skills.

O’Connor says, “We’ve got research culinology, international cooking, a chocolate lab, a meat fabrication lab, a public bistro and theory lab throughout the buildings.” In addition to students from across Iowa and Nebraska, O’Connor says the college is home to students from all over the world. The popularity in culinary education is exploding, she says, thanks in part to the Food Network and to people wanting to live and eat healthier.

“A lot of those things bring all that back to the college and the college saw the need for the increase in courses and opportunities for people who want to do it professionally and have a personal interest in culinary,” she says. “The building and the program really came about (because) of that and enrollment continues to grow on both the personal interest side as well as professional.”

The college now has an enrollment of about 1,000 students, a 50% increase in recent years. O’Connor says students are getting many hands-on experiences, while the program also features a restaurant that’s open to the public. “The public can enjoy student-prepared meals Monday through Thursday when class is in session,” O’Connor says. “Those menus are created by students. The chefs are students and all their wait staff, everything in the bistro is operated by students so it’s that hands on, real-time learning opportunity that we provide in a beautiful setting.”

There are degree options in: Culinary Arts and Management, Hospitality and Restaurant Leadership, and Pre-dietetics. The open house runs from 4:30 to 7:30 P.M.

By Karla James