The Culinary Arts and Management Program started in 1974 with the opening of Metropolitan Community College.
The program expanded in March 1988 with the opening of new learning laboratory facilities. In 1991, the program was accredited by the American Culinary Federation and it served about 40 students.
In 1992 the Culinary Arts and Management Program and Omaha Restaurant Association collaborated to begin the Hospitality Hall of Fame and accompanying annual banquet. The Hospitality Hall of Fame honors Omaha area people who have made the notable contributions in the hospitality industry, and is a fund raiser for student scholarships. To date, the event has raised over $140,000 for scholarships.
Because of increasing demand for trained graduates, the program began actively recruiting students in 1993. Concurrently, a national recruitment push resulted in increased diversity in our student population that has carried through to the present. The program attracts students from diverse ethnicities and geographic locales as far as Japan, Guam and Africa. About 50 percent of the students are female and 50 percent are non-traditional.
In 1995, the Culinary Arts and Management Program was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Hospitality Management Programs (CAHM), making Metro’s program the first community college in the United States to be accredited jointly by CAHM and the American Culinary Federation Accrediting Commission.
A major kitchen renovation was completed in 2000, creating 18 individual student stations and incorporating a high definition video system for instruction. Also, an articulation agreement in Foodservice Management was established with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), enabling students to attain a bachelor’s degree.
In 1996 the program devised the first program for the training of Research chefs, and then in 2001, Metropolitan Community College became the first two-year college to offer Culinology™ , a food science, research and product development specialization option that is developed and endorsed by the Research Chefs™ Association. An articulation agreement with UNL enables students to complete of a bachelor of science in Culinology™. That year, the Culinary Arts and Management Program grew to 300 students.
A pre-dietetics degree option was added in 2002. The move was made to fill demand for local dietetics coursework after the University of Nebraska moved its program to Lincoln.
As program offerings have increased, so has the addition of quality faculty members. The program has won many national and regional awards for excellence and the faculty and staff are among the highest rated in the United States. for their qualifications. Recently, the Center for Technical Education (CTE) recognized Metro’s program for exceeding industry standards, quality programming, faculty, articulation and response to non-traditional students.
The Culinary Arts operational staff also won the Gilliland Team Award in 2000, which is a College award that recognizes employees who have worked together towards the enhancement of the institution with emphasis on the process and spirit of the team effort. The Omaha World Herald has featured instructors and students regularly. A regular television segment “The Art of Cooking,” on station KETV, features Metro culinary faculty demonstrating cooking techniques.
The program performs a vital, hands-on role in food preparation to customers at the Fort Omaha campus. Students prepare food for the Brick Hearth-an American Bakery and Cafe as well as operate Sage student bistro-a fine-dining restaurant, that is open to the public for dinner Monday through Thursday. Garde Manger buffets allow individual students to shine. Garde Manger —the art of preparing, decorating and presenting cold foods for buffets and banquets—is one of the most demanding, artistic and exciting specialties in the culinary arts.
In keeping with the stature the program has attained, The Culinary Arts and Management degree program at Metropolitan Community College has created the “Institute for the Culinary Arts” to improve the program’s competitiveness in the culinary field. Full-time and adjunct faculty members and an active advisory counsel, are updating the program’s curriculum to stay current. Several new culinary arts courses, open to both professionals and non-professionals, are offered through the College’s continuing education division.
With the creation of "Institute for the Culinary Arts" (ICA) the program moved on November 23, 2009 into their new state of the art building on the south side of the Fort Campus. The new building includes separate classrooms for meat fabrication, a chocolate lab, bake shop, production kitchen, ala carte kitchen, banquet server kitchen, theory labs, and a demonstration lab. The new Bistro location seats 60 and also provides a dining room for smaller private parties.
The second floor of the ICA building features the Swanson Conference Center, which will allow students the opportunity for hands-on experience with hospitality, food service/catering for large and small groups.
Student organizations present more opportunities for students to get experience. The Culinary Club (Tri-Omega) sells food to raise funds that are used to send student representatives to culinary competitions and the annual National Restaurant Association show in Chicago. The NRA show, with over 150,000 attendees and 2,000 exhibitors, is the largest gathering of restaurant and culinary people in the United States. The Culinary Ambassador Program gives students leadership experience while acquainting local schools and organizations with the culinary arts field and Metro’s Culinary Arts and Management program offerings.
Because of the strong relationships built with local proprietors the Institute’s placement rate for graduates is near 100 percent. They become chefs and culinarians in leading restaurants, hotels and clubs, and manage area businesses. Some are restaurant owners.
The Institute for the Culinary Arts continues to be one of the fastest growing areas at MCC.