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Charlotte is eating up new culinary school


The Associated Press

CHARLOTTE — About a dozen Johnson & Wales University culinary arts students dressed in starched-white jackets and chef’s toques peered out a window at business-district workers, who in turn ogled the delectable desserts lined up on stainless steel tables.

“Now I know how the gorillas at the zoo feel,” one student quipped, eliciting laughter.

It’s a scene becoming commonplace on the north side of Charlotte’s downtown, now that the classrooms of the famed culinary school’s newest campus have opened for business.

Johnson & Wales is bringing student life into the heart of this banking center, located in the trendy Gateway Village development that was spearheaded by Bank of America. And the city has opened its arms, giving the school’s new campus equal billing with the new National Basketball Association franchise, the Bobcats, at a pep rally scheduled this week.

Johnson & Wales is grooming young men and women who hope one day to populate the top levels of the culinary world, from kitchens to management suites.

“I’m going to open my own high-end restaurant and travel the world,” said Austin Klevickis, a first-year student from Snellville, Ga. “And I plan to eat very well.”

Enthusiasm for the school’s arrival in Charlotte has exceeded expectations.

First-year enrollment was set at 885 students when Johnson & Wales announced two years ago that it was coming here. Admissions officers ended up enrolling 1,210 freshmen — and could have had five times that many.

“We had more than 6,000 applications when we had to cut it off,” said Jim Palermo, a former Bank of America executive who holds the title of “executive in residence” at the school. By 2007, the campus it expected to be home to as many as 5,000 students.

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While a culinary school is not as sexy as a law school, this shows the potential of moving the Florida Coastal School of Law downtown. The city and Chamber of Commerce need to help make that happen. The Charlotte city gov't and business community put their money were it's collective mouth is to get this school. This school was successful and well established in Charleston. Charleston had the advantage of a tourist and restaurant base to easily support such a school. But a united and well-funded effort by Charlotte, convinced the school to relocate. If I remember correctly, the Charlotte community (public and private) put up about $10 million for the new campus.

For many years downtown Charlotte (which they call Uptown), has been extremely office oriented. It was dead after 5pm and on the weekends, even more so than Jax. But as the residential population has finally grown to finally reach the 10,000 mark, the downtown has starting coming to life after hours. With this new school being a new fountain of people and activity, it will likely complete the transformation.

The FCSL decision is due anytime now. Let's hope there has been a deal in the works to bring it downtown.

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