Building a recipe for success

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Staff of the future Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute will welcome the first class of students in the fall. Pictured here are, left to right, Aaron Guerra, head of the cuisine program; Alison Dolder, head of professional baking and pastry arts; and cuisine instructor Earl Frederick.

After years of working in a building that she described as a puzzle of past remodels, Alison Dolder is thrilled she will lead 2017 classes in a state-of-the-art space.

Dolder, head of the professional baking and pastry arts program at Clark College, will instruct in a new building that includes a production kitchen, retail bakery, full-service dining room and variety of food kiosks.

After four years of developing an updated curriculum and modernizing the existing kitchens and dining spaces, the Tod and Maxine McClaskey Culinary Institute will welcome its first class of students in the fall. The goal is to create community space on campus that highlights the growing influence of food on contemporary culture, according to Tim Cook, vice president of instruction at Clark.

The updated space is the result of a $4 million gift from the McClaskey Family Foundation and fundraising from the Clark College Foundation, community partners and financial commitments from Clark College. The total project cost is $10.5 million.

“We are excited at the possibilities of partnering with individuals, businesses, other foundations, alumni and friends in order to complete the project this year,” said Rhonda Morin, communications director. “We welcome anyone who would like to partner with us to contact the Clark College Foundation.”

If you go

What: There will be an informational session about the cuisine and bakery programs on Monday, March 6 at 6 p.m. in PUB 161 on Clark’s main campus, 1933 Fort Vancouver Way. Maps and directions are available at

For more information about the programs, visit

All services will be open to the Clark College community and the general public.

“This new facility will provide an immediate positive impact for both the college community and the culinary programs,” Cook said. “We are able to provide students with career-focused, affordable culinary education at a time when many other local programs are closing their doors.”

He noted that when the institute opens, it will be the only public culinary program within 120 miles.

“Once completed, the culinary institute will not only revolutionize culinary education and training in the Northwest, but it will provide much-needed quality and varied food service for our students, faculty and staff, and the community at large,” said Joel B. Munson, senior vice president of development at Clark College Foundation. “From grab-and-go healthy options to fine dining, the McClaskey Institute will offer something for just about everyone, and it is all being made possible by the generosity of our donors.”

Dolder has served as the interim head of baking and pastry for three years after former director Ian Titterton’s retirement, and was officially hired for the position in December.

She began her baking career on the East Coast more than 30 years ago as a cake decorator, then started a business. She is a graduate of the baking program at Clark, and has been working at the college for 16 years.

“I enjoy sharing my passion for baking with the students,” Dolder said. “I like seeing them get excited about this profession. When you can see them grasp the concepts and the science of baking it’s very gratifying. I like to see them learn, improve their skills, then work to master the art of baking and pastry.”

Clark’s culinary arts program was put on hiatus in 2013. At the time, some longtime faculty members were retiring. It was also an opportunity to look at revamping the curriculum and facilities of the program, which needed some updating to align with industry trends, according to Hannah Erickson, communications specialist.

The baking program was put on hiatus in 2015 due to the reconstruction of its teaching facilities.

“Many of the areas were dated and in need of repair,” Dolder said. “In order to be able to offer the new and updated programs, we need a state-of-the art space.

“There have been so many changes in the industry and we need to be current and relevant. We couldn’t continue to use the band aid approach.

The new facility will be approximately 18,315 square feet.

In both programs, students learn classic techniques, kitchen fundamentals, and real-world skills, and then combine that knowledge with practical experience in high-volume food production.

There will be one-year certificate programs and a two-year associate’s degree. Additionally, students interested in four-year degrees can advance their culinary careers with Clark College’s Bachelor of Applied Science in Applied Management degree program.

The cuisine program will focus on fundamentals including food safety, handling and sanitation; knife skills; kitchen math, and the theories behind various cooking methods.

From there, classes become more in-depth and cover topics including professional cooking, basic meat and protein preparation, healthy and local cooking, kitchen station rotation, menu planning, cost control, international and regional cuisine, banquets and buffets.

Students in the baking and pastry arts program will master the fundamentals of baking, and then combine that knowledge with experience working in Clark’s new production-focused baking lab. Classes will focus on mastering techniques for making artisan breads, laminated doughs, cakes, tortes, French pastries and more.

“There is a growing demand for culinary and hospitality professionals in this region,” said Aaron Guerra, executive chef instructor and head of the culinary arts department. “The culinary landscape is shifting, and Clark College is well-suited to face the changing industry because we’re not afraid to do things differently.”

Dolder noted that one new feature will be the opportunity for students to become trained baristas at the new espresso bar.

“We’ll have fun creating new Clark College themed drinks and branded snacks and treats,” she said.

New equipment has been added that will allow the students more flexibility when it comes to schedules during their lab time.

The students will also be able to be seen by the public while they work, as there will be windows looking into the bakery with a place for students and customers to sit and watch them mix, form, cut, load and unload product from the ovens.

“It’s what the former head of this program, Per Zeeburg, called ‘The Theater of Baking,'” Dolder said. “In the past, no one could see in. Our students felt disconnected from the campus community.”