RCC Culinary Arts program cooking up surprises for Fall 2017

Hatley Bright

Hatley Bright, director of RCC’s Culinary Arts program.

For anyone who has met RCC Culinary Arts professor Hatley Bright, enthusiasm is not something she lacks. Excitement flows from her spatula — like water over Niagara Falls — and the faucet has been turned up all the way, now that she’ll be getting her space at the Glenns Campus. Construction on the upcoming RCC Culinary Arts Lab will begin on September 5 and should be completed a few months afterward.

For years, the culinary arts program was sort of like a food truck. Chef Bright and her equipment on wheels would appear in multiple locations throughout the Middle Peninsula and Northern Neck. But soon, that will all change.

“It’s going to be a teaching kitchen and a culinary lab,” says Bright. In this new classroom, Bright will be able to teach her students in an environment that is very much like what one would experience in a high-end restaurant.

“The new space will have the state-of-the-art equipment!” gushes Bright.

The culinary arts lab will allow Bright to offer new sorts of courses, including a baking class, which Bright herself got a bit of a refresher on some time ago.

In October 2016, and again in March 2017, Bright journeyed to San Francisco, California, for a “chance of a lifetime” to learn baking skills and new techniques at the San Francisco Baking Institute, a working bakery as well as a school in the city.

Bright says that she received this opportunity with a scholarship that was privately funded by local donors and the RCC Educational Foundation.

“[The donors] also have established a culinary arts scholarship at RCC, which will be awarded to students starting in 2019,” says Bright.

For Bright, going to these baking courses in California was a refreshing experience, one that put her back into class as a student. She loved every minute of working in the “art and science of cooking of culinary arts” and learning from others.

“You make your products, but you work in teams,” she says of the baking experience. “It’s an all-day thing, nine hours a day, five days a week, and pretty intense, start at 7 o’clock in the morning and go all day.”

Although an experienced culinary professor herself, Bright says of learning new techniques, “It was an eye-opening experience. There’s more than one way to do just about anything.”

As for bringing her experience in San Francisco to her classroom, “I am in the process of working on a career studies certificate for baking, and that [experience is] something I’m hoping to implement next year. It was a real experience being taught by other professionals who are doing this on a daily basis now.”

While RCC builds her a permanent home, Bright was called on to help instruct folks who wanted to learn from other professionals. In May, Bright traveled to Many, Louisiana for a master teacher seminar during the summer designed to give teachers training to be more effective in the classroom.

A summer of learning new experiences and techniques have prepared Chef Bright to have a great 2017. The Fall semester, which begins on August 28, has all the ingredients to be a special one for Bright and her students. — Ashley Wood and Eric Pesola