Golden Corral Culinary Center Dedicated
By Christine Neff
With the smell of smoky cheese potatoes, pan seared sea scallops and other gourmet treats wafting through the halls of the Rivers Building Feb. 26, Robert O’Halloran couldn’t help but note, “It smells great when you walk in here, doesn’t it?”
The chair of ECU’s Department of Hospitality Management was standing in the new Golden Corral Culinary Center, a state-of-the-art kitchen lab that resulted from a partnership between ECU and Golden Corral. The restaurant chain, a longtime supporter of ECU’s hospitality management program, contributed $200,000 to the renovation project.
“In tough economic times like these, it’s great to celebrate this partnership between industry and education that is going to provide new leaders in our industry,” O’Halloran said.
Irwin Roberts, a vice president for Golden Corral, called the project a “labor of love.” Both he and James Maynard, founder of Golden Corral, graduated from East Carolina and started a business partnership here that has lasted more than 40 years.
“We owe a lot to ECU,” Roberts said.
He led the effort to secure donations and discounts from vendors for the high-quality kitchen equipment found in the laboratory. Vendors such as American Food Service Company, The Delfield Company, Dormont Manufacturing, Cannon Marketing, Wildwood Marketing, Winston Industries, AC Furniture, Captive Air, Garland Range Company, Hobart Corporation, InterMetro Industries, New Age Industries, Newell Rubbermaid, International Storage Systems, and Security New Age all participated in equipment selection and procurement.
James Maynard said his company, a leader in the hospitality industry, was proud to contribute to the new culinary facility. “I’m expecting to see many new leaders come out of this hospitality program,” he said.
The kitchen laboratory has eight cooking stations with professional-quality convection ovens and gas ranges. At the dedication, they were put to good use by guest chefs from Golden Corral, Sysco, ARAMARK, Biltmore Estates and Hilton Greenville who prepared hors d’oeuvres and sweets.
The facility is a big upgrade from the previous lab, which had 1970s equipment, said Will Forsythe, chair of the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The new facility will enhance the learning experience for students and provide new opportunities for the community, he said. The center will host cooking classes for adults and children. Demonstrations will be captured on video and broadcast online. ECU’s FoodMaster program, which seeks to teach kids about math and science through food, will also use the facility.
“We’re going to be able to use this laboratory for so many programs that will benefit our students and ECU. I’m excited to see the things that become possible with this laboratory,” he said.