John Richards, Miami Culinary Institute Director, Talks Food Trucks and Restaurant Opening
|Richards (far right second row) and the Chef's Council|
Miami New Times: How many students are in the program?
John Richards: We have 44 students in our first class. We started because we had such high demand we went ahead and opened up. I have two full-time instructors, and I'll have nine adjunct instructors in August, so we'll have a total of 11 to start. The capacity of our school will be 400 students, and when we get there, we will audition students like New World School of the Arts does. They will audition 1,500 students for 200 openings, and that's what we will do.
Tell us about the program for enthusiasts.
It's very, very exciting. The student portion of the program is one-third of what we do. The enthusiast program is another third. We have developed an amazing array of programming, of cooking classes of all levels, wine education and awareness classes, gardening and wellness. For one of our first cooking classes, we have Norman Van Aken teaching for three Tuesdays in a row. People who sign up will come into our theater, spend an hour in there talking about his philosophy, and they will move up together into a kitchen where they will cook together for two hours. They will end in the restaurant, where they will dine together and talk about their evening.
Another series is with Canyon Ranch. Their focus is on food and wine and the wellness side of culinary. We have probably 20 courses developed, all prices ranging from, I won't say inexpensive, but modest to very advanced. If you're going to spend four hours a night with Norman Van Aken, it'll be money well invested.
What was the idea behind having a food truck for the school?
It was so important to me that my students have an opportunity, while they're going to school, to work. So we've created experiences in our café downstairs, which will be student-run, in our catering operations, and in the food truck. Any student who wants to work, we will provide them a job.
The Alphabite food truck is the first; my intention is to have five by December and eight by next April. It's also a marketing vehicle. That is one truck for each of the school's campuses. Besides doing the campuses, we'll do rallies and big sporting events. Most of our students may never have the opportunity to have a couple million dollars to open a big restaurant, but maybe they can get $50,000 and buy a food truck.
When will the school's restaurant open?
We haven't announced the starting date. The café and food truck are launching this week, and I'd say midsummer we're starting on the restaurant, and it should be running by fall.
Is that student-run?
No, that's professionally run. We are making a statement by putting what we know will be a new favorite destination, dining spot in downtown. The concept is going to be fresh. There is nothing in Miami that mimics what we're doing. Each month, one of our chef's council members will be featured in the menu. I think Allen Susser is starting off the lineup, and Michael Schwartz is second.
Did you expect the school to be so well received?
Yes, just because it's this college. Miami-Dade College is this way. It's a very special place. We've got the right message, so it's going to be magnificent.