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Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College

Ben Berntson, Auburn University
High School Students at Culinard
Culinard, the Culinary Institute of Virginia College, was a private post-secondary culinary school located at Virginia College in Birmingham. Founded in 2000, the school offered training in general culinary arts with some specializations and features students' creations in its restaurant, which was open to the public. It closed along with all other related campuses in 2018 when its parent institution, Education Corporation of America, ceased operations after failing to achieve accreditation from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
In 2000, Virginia College (a for-profit degree-granting institution founded in 1983) invested $2 million in the establishment of Culinard and transformed the former Fifth Quarter restaurant in Homewood, just south of Birmingham, into the cooking school 195 Mizan Plaz. The name is a play on the French culinary phrase mise en place, which roughly translates as "everything in place." In July 2002, Culinard expanded to include a 5,000-square-foot bakery on Vulcan Road in Homewood to house its Pastry, Baking, and Confectionary Arts Program.
Susan Notter
Chef Jill Bosich was named the school's first dean, soon after a gold-medal finish in cold food preparation at the 2000 International Culinary Olympics, officially called the Internationale Kochkunst Ausstellung (IKA), a global culinary competition held in Germany every four years since 1900. Celebrated executive pastry chef Susan Notter, who was Bosich's gold-medal teammate at the 2000 IKA competition, was named dean of the pastry program. In 2004, top pastry chef Antony Osborne, who worked in Thailand, Singapore, and Australia, was hired as dean of the pastry program and took over as dean of the Culinard Institute in early 2005.
The institute offered a bachelor's degree in culinary arts management; occupational associates degrees in culinary arts and in pastry, baking and confectionary arts, and a diploma in culinary arts. Students progressed from kitchen fundamentals to more advanced skills such as bakery, garde manger (specialized preparation of cold foods), and charcuterie (preparation of cured meats), and on to more specialized coursework such as patissiere (baking of French pastries). The programs culminated in an internship at the restaurant.
Student Chefs at 195 Mizan Plaz
The culinary school offered high school students educational opportunities in its commercial kitchens, enabling youths to earn credits and acquire kitchen skills. The non-degree program "Weekend at Culinard" offered courses such as "Sushi Basics," "Competition Barbecue," and "Taste of Tuscany," joining a weekend "Kids Cuisine" program to provide enrichment for Birmingham-area residents not seeking professional training.
Birmingham has been home to a culinary program at Jefferson State Community College since 1990, attracting mainly local residents. The Culinard Institute however, with its private-college tuition costs exceeding $30,000, cast a wider recruiting net, with the aim of competing globally in the field of culinary education. In 2018, Culinard was among the 31 campuses in three schools that shuttered after Education Corporation of America failed to achieve accreditation for any of them and abruptly closed them down.
Published:  February 23, 2009   |   Last updated:  November 12, 2020