If you talk to chefs and restaurant owners in town you'll likely hear them lament the lack of culinary talent in the local employment pool. The explosion of the dining scene in Cleveland has created a shortage of skilled workers for both the front and back of the house.
That's odd considering that there's a fully accredited culinary school in the heart of downtown. The Tri-C Hospitality Management Center offers two year degrees in Hospitality Management with a concentration in the Culinary Arts, but many say there's a disconnect between the school and the local restaurant scene.
Well, say school staffers, progress is afoot. In addition to changes at the top in the form of a new dean, chef Brandt Evans has been named executive director of the Hospitality Management Center. His main task, he says, is to build better bridges between the community college and the community it calls home.
"A lot of what I do is bringing some much deserved attention to the school," Evans says. "I want to make sure the community knows what an unbelievable resource we have here – just letting people know that there's a culinary school here and there's plenty of opportunity for students to stay in the state."
For years, adds Evans, culinary students would travel out of state to study at the Culinary Institute of America or Johnson & Wales. As part of their education the undergrads would do externships at restaurants in those cities, which often lead to permanent posts or referrals elsewhere. Rarely do these grads pack up their knives and return home after school's done.
"The number one thing I hear all the time from my buddy chefs and restaurant owners is 'we need cooks,'" says Evans. "If I can help keep future chefs and restaurants in our city, it's a win-win for us."
Much of the job will be matching the right candidate with the right position, says Evans. "I'll go and interview the chef to understand his needs. And it's not just cooks and restaurants: You can go work at Nestle or in journalism – you don't have to be the next Michael Symon."
Evans says that his connection to the school via Pura Vida's proximity to it means that he's been fielding requests for students from his colleagues in the biz all along. Now, it's official.
"I'm excited to help revitalize the city by keeping more students in the city," he says. "It's a new challenge in my life, and I'm excited about it."