Photo by Nick Saunders

By: Joe Lipovski

After three years of NAIT prioritizing applied research, they are now building new research kitchens for culinary development.

“It’s primarily part of industry solutions and so it isn’t a student-dedicated space,” said Dana Gibson, Director of Business Development for the Centre for Culinary Innovation.

The centre will be for chef-driven innovation in the culinary arts and will have a similar purpose as the PIC Building. The PIC Building is not open for students, but it is used for applied research—as well as testing and development of new products and hosting conferences and events.

“It’s a little bit like the PIC Building…We are the only centres for innovation that is co-located with the school, as opposed to being in the PIC Centre,” said Gibson. “It’s a hybrid and we are still figuring out how to get students involved.”

Gibson predicts that in three years, they will be able to bring on three new full time staff members. She also hopes that the centre will have positions for student researchers. Gibson says having student involvement will make the innovation centre different from the PIC Building.

There will be six new kitchens dedicated to product innovation. These new kitchens will be across from Ernest’s dining room. The space used to be occupied by several offices and the $2.55 million innovation centre is set to open late this summer.

Chef Maynard Kolskog will be one of the first people to move into the innovation centre. He has been experimenting with oats. Transforming the grain into milk and ice cream. Kolskog has also been working with the Prairie Oat Growers Association. In order to take the cereal grain and adapt it to as many diets as possible, Kolskog has been experimenting with the grain to find new uses and to accommodate dietary needs.

Experiments like these will be moved into the new innovation centre’s applied research labs. Gibson predicts that in time students, may work alongside Chef Kolskog in the new innovation kitchens.

NAIT is looking for an additional $3 million in order to build a demonstration theatre. The theatre will be for culinary students and is expected to bridge the gap between the food safety side of instruction in the existing culinary labs and the new research labs.

It is possible that programs like the Chef in Residence Program will use the theatre. This will allow the culinary program to accept more applicants that are wanting to work with a high profile chef. Currently, the Chef in Residence Program only accepts 50 students out of 300 applicants each year.

“We are hoping that once it’s built, the Chef in Residence can make use of [the theatre],” said Gibson.

The research labs will occasionally have opportunities for students as the centre will offer workshops and seminars. However, it will not be used for regular instruction.

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