This fall, the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center will house two new facilities that will serve the Auburn community while also acting as a teaching center for students enrolled in the university's hospitality program.
On August 16, the culinary center opened 1856, a teaching restaurant intended to give culinary students hands-on experience by serving a pool of 48 guests and working under the chef in residence, Tyler Lyne.
Lyne attended the Culinary Institute of America and owns multiple restaurants in Birmingham Alabama, which is where he met Hans van Der Reijden, managing director of The Hotel at Auburn.
“Hans and his wife, Lisa, came as guests to our supper club,” Lyne said. “ He offered me the chef in residence right there on the spot. It was a relationship that we fostered over probably about a year and then when I found out about the residency thing, I was like, ‘Dude, you know, if you need somebody to do that. I'm your guy.’ I guess the stars aligned. He gave me a call one day and asked if I was serious about it. And I said, ‘Yeah,’ so then I took on the residency.”
For students hoping to have careers in hospitality and culinary arts, being able to work in a hands-on environment where they get the chance to serve and learn is vital.
“When I was at the Culinary Institute, you know, I actually graduated, and then stayed on for what they call a fellowship program,” Lyne said. “I guess in college, it would be equivalent to a teaching assistant. So, I definitely understand the importance of a teaching facility like this, and a real world simulation, it actually is fairly real world, you do have professional staff. I think it is a cool blend between the commercial operator side.”
Lyne will serve in this inaugural position for one year and the restaurant plans to change the chefs in residence each year of this restaurant.
The development of this center began shortly after the opening of the Tony and Libba Rane Center. Martin O’Neill, department head of hospitality management, looked at how other culinary programs functioned.
“Most hospitality programs, internationally, nationally, have what I will call a practical laboratory attached to them,” O’Neill said. “One that gives students an opportunity to not only take their theory and class, but to put into practice what we're teaching theoretically, within the class in a practical environment. So you know, different schools approach that in different ways. Some of them have teaching restaurants, some of them have bar establishments, some of them have hotels. By and large they're sort of siloed in one way or the other.”
For the community, there is a surplus of food options tucked in downtown Auburn and around the city, but 1856 will provide an artisanal experience that emphasizes well sourced ingredients and a quality, according to O’Neill.
In addition to the teaching restaurant, the culinary center is also opening Hey Day, a food hall named after one of Auburn’s oldest traditions.
“It's a living research laboratory,” O’Neill said. “But it's also got a big community and an outreach focus. So it's open to the community, people can come in and tour the facility. We have an open door philosophy. We'll be offering evening and weekend classes for the community. So we want people to know that it's not just there for the students.”
Students in the culinary program will take their first few years of undergraduate classes and a core curriculum before they have the chance to work in the 1856 restaurant.
The culinary sciences and program at Auburn began in 2019, and each year, the number of students enrolled in the program continues to rapidly grow.
“It's been absolutely wonderful. So, you know, I want to say our freshman class and event management was probably around about 19 students,” O’Neill said. “I think we're at about 185 right now. And that's been three years. And, you know, we're going to realize an awful lot more growth with that program, because there's a lot more interest.”
Tyler Schmidt, junior in culinary sciences, has first hand experience of this growth. During his freshman year, he saw how rapidly the program was spreading and the investments Auburn was making towards the culinary center.
“It's been very work focused. We've seen that in pretty much every single one of our classes so far and much more so this hands on experience that they value whether it's our culinary classes or practicums especially now with 1856,” Schmidt said. “There is a requirement of certain work hours done during your time at undergrad and this feels like the next evolution in that process in giving students hands-on experience.”
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