WASHINGTON — Prince George’s County, Maryland, is now home to the region’s hottest restaurant kitchen. But diners be warned: There’s no menu, just a course catalog.
After three years of planning, one year of construction and a $20 million investment from Prince George’s County, the Culinary Arts Center at Prince George’s Community College is open.
The 21,351-square-foot facility includes three instructional restaurant-scale kitchens, classroom space and event space. There’s also a community kitchen where home cooks can sharpen their knives and their roasting, baking and wine-pairing skills.
The 60-year-old academic institution launched its culinary arts program about a decade ago, but Prince George’s Community College President Charlene Dukes said with the area’s booming food and hospitality industry, it was time to take it to the next level.
“The interest in food and the culinary arts has grown tremendously … and we’re approached on numerous occasions about our students serving internships and also being hired,” Dukes said.
According to data from the National Restaurant Association, Maryland’s restaurant industry is a $12.1 billion business. There are currently 246,200 restaurant and food service jobs in the state, and by 2028, that number is expected to grow by about 9 percent. Close by, D.C. brings in $3.8 billion a year in restaurant sales and boasts 68,900 restaurant and food service jobs.
“It really is about giving the students the opportunity to work in the industry, to take what they’re learning in an academic setting and environment and put that to practice in the industry.”
MGM National Harbor Executive Chef Jason Johnston partners with the school’s culinary arts program to help staff the massive National Harbor resort.
“When the students graduate and come to us, they’re ready to hit the ground running,” Johnston said.
And Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker expects other hotels and resorts in the area — including several new and planned hotels— will find similar value in the students.
“One of the growing areas of Prince George’s County is our hospitality. We have more hotels online than any other place around the Washington region,” Baker said. “And this right here is going to prepare our children to go into those jobs and into careers.”
The first classes in the new facility will meet June 1, and course options range from food production, baking and beverage management in the associate degree program, to authentic Chinese cooking and grill master classes in the continuing education program.
The center’s Executive Chef Edward Whitfield said health is another big focus in the instruction. Many graduates go on to cook in hospitals or other health care settings. Plus, he said, with the region’s high rates of obesity and diabetes, educating aspiring chefs about the link between food and health is essential.
“Our job is not only to make food taste good and look good, but to make sure it’s healthy as well,” Whitfield said.
Baker added, “This is all part of making Prince George’s County the place to be.”
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