Come cook with us at RCC’s new Culinary Arts Lab at Glenns

Chef Hatley Bright

Chef Hatley Bright stands in her new Culinary Arts Lab, the only one of its kind in the area.

After a much-anticipated two-year preparation, Rappahannock Community College is pleased to announce the completion of their Glenns Campus’ new culinary arts lab this February. Heading up the whole process is Chef Hatley Bright, instructor for the college’s Culinary Arts program.

“This project started getting talked about 4 ½ years ago, and it’s been in the planning stages ever since,” she talks of the buildup to this moment. “I started ordering equipment back in July of 2015, so I’ve had equipment here for 18 months … [and] I’m unboxing things now.”

Though the kitchen may be open for classes, final touches and details are still being put in place.

“We’re still cleaning things and taking little things out of boxes and things like that, but we’ll turn on the ovens and start cooking next week,” says Bright.

As for reactions to the new lab, “I’ve already doubled the size of my program, just in January, which is kind of exciting. It’s all brand-new equipment; it’s all shiny, clean. It’s a great opportunity to see how this equipment works.”

For new and returning students, Bright says, “I’ve got just about everything that they would find in a professional kitchen, so they’re going to have first-hand knowledge of how to operate this.”

Bright’s personal favorite of her shining and new equipment?

“[Of what] I have now, the demonstration table’s cool because it will expand the ability of the number of people that can see what I’m doing,” she says.

While the lab is fresh out of the box and most haven’t had the chance to see it yet, Bright says she’s already had inquiries from local businesses about her students.

“Some of my students who are working in the industry, their bosses have been like, ‘Well, give [Hatley] my card, we’re going to need people for the summer.’ It’s starting to slowly get out.”

One person could never have finished this project. Bright praises the faculty and staff who assisted with the task. “[RCC President] Dr. Crowther for pushing this forward, [RCC V.P. of Finance] Bill Doyle for making it actually happen,” she says, listing those she’s grateful for.

“The Virginia Community College System (VCCS) has been very helpful and they helped me get the money almost two years ago to buy all this great equipment that I have.”

She goes on, saying, “Richard Lewter and his facilities staff have been awesome helping me check-in [and store] equipment … since I wasn’t on [Glenns] campus a lot. It’s been a very broad spectrum of people making this happen. Obviously, all the staff has been really helpful with helping me move things around.”

She is anticipating adding a new Career Studies Certificate in Baking very soon and will begin new classes soon for the Rappahannock Institute of Lifelong Learning (RILL) program in her lab.

Although the Spring 2018 semester has started, Bright encourages those interested to enroll.

“Students could still enroll up until next week for this semester … since it’s a 12-week schedule.” Looking to the future, “Next semester we’re going to try to offer more of the classes for those who have started the program.”

With her gleaming new culinary lab and increased in enrolled students, Bright may be beginning the semester late, but hopeful. “It’s a new program; it’s going to continue to change and try to meet the needs of what the business community needs so that we can train people to go out and get work.”

Students still have time to enroll for classes in the Culinary Arts Program. The last day to add is February 15. — Mary Ashley Wood