Nicholls pushes ahead with culinary institute

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THIBODAUX, La. (AP) — While winter rain delayed progress on Nicholls State University's new Culinary Institute, officials said construction is back on track.

The 8-acre site is at the edge of the Nicholls campus near Louisiana Highway 1 and Bowie Road. The 33,000-square-foot building is expected to be finished in December, Assistant Vice President of Facilities Mike Davis told The Daily Comet (http://bit.ly/Ss8Wyd).

"Construction is moving forward. Right now they're erecting the steel frame and beginning to install the metal studs. Shortly we'll see a roof and walls beginning to take shape," Davis said. "Once they're finished with that, things will be moving along a little bit faster."

The culinary school, which began offering classes in 1995, is the only four-year public university program of its kind in the country.

The building will include teaching and storage facilities and a restaurant to give students real-life experience.

Officials broke ground in March 2013 and construction on the $12.6 million building began in September. The state contributed $8 million and the Culinary Institute raised much of the rest via fundraisers and donations. A balance of $1.5 million remains.

Chef Randy Cheramie, director of the institute, said the facility will have four 12,000-square-foot teaching kitchens. Each will have room for 16 students and one instructor.

The institute currently occupies 9,000 square feet in Gouaux Hall and has about 300 students. The target date for the move to the new building is ahead of the spring semester.

"We just have one more semester in this building, which will be in mid-August, and we'll be in the new building Dec. 15," Cheramie said. "I've been waiting for this for 15 years, so I'm very excited."

As construction continues, Cheramie said he will work to increase the program's enrollment over the next few months.

In the past, he said the program's average enrollment ranged from about 285 to 300 students.

Cheramie said the college is working to create a more focused recruitment plan.

"Now we're just planning to do a little more recruiting," he said. "We're going to be going to a couple of cooking shows and making high school visits, just doing whatever we have to do to up that enrollment because I think we'll be up 500 students in two years."

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Information from: Daily Comet, http://www.dailycomet.com

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