2 months ago

Auburn University to build world-class culinary center for students, tourism industry

A culinary science center unlike any other is coming to Auburn University in 2021.

The university’s Board of Trustees took the final steps Feb. 15 to create the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center, a transformative complex blending a learning environment with a luxury boutique hotel and restaurant.

“The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center will be an academic learning environment equipped to launch our students into leadership roles in the culinary and hospitality industries,” said Auburn University President Steven Leath. “The campus and community will also reap the benefits of having such a dynamic destination for food, hospitality and instruction so close to home.”

The 142,000-square-foot facility will provide students interested in hospitality and culinary sciences with hands-on learning experiences in a teaching hotel and a teaching restaurant, as well as a range of classrooms and demonstration and food production laboratories.

“Our students will have unparalleled opportunities to learn best practices in the hospitality and culinary sciences within a luxury setting from the best in the industry,” said June Henton, dean of the College of Human Sciences. “The entire complex will provide guests with an immersion in hospitality that is second to none.”

Auburn University is home to Alabama’s only professionally accredited hospitality program. The new center will be a draw for students currently in top culinary programs in high schools in Alabama and across the nation.

The facility will also become a destination for alumni and new guests alike who enjoy food and beverage tourism.

“The potential impact is enormous. The Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is going to be one of the most interesting and exciting culinary education centers in America, if not the world,” said Frank Stitt, owner and executive chef of Highlands Bar and Grill in Birmingham and 2018 James Beard Award winner for Outstanding Restaurant.

The Alabama Tourism Department reported an estimated 26.6 million people visited the state in 2017, generating more than $14.3 billion in revenue. One of the primary motivations of tourists in visiting Alabama is the state’s prominent and growing food legacy.

The challenge for Alabama is to maintain the tourism growth while facing a shortage of appropriately qualified employees in culinary and hospitality trades.

“There is an urgent need to rethink Alabama’s current workforce development strategy,” said Martin O’Neill, head of the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Hospitality Management in Auburn’s College of Human Sciences. “Auburn University is responding to this challenge with new and revitalized hospitality and culinary sciences curricula and development of the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center.”

The plans for such a facility at Auburn started more than a decade ago, when Henton tasked O’Neill and Hans van der Reijden, managing director of The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center, to visit globally recognized programs and facilities to benchmark the center’s development.

O’Neill and Van der Reijden visited the best of the best from Singapore to Switzerland and all of Europe, and developed a plan to create an academic resource for Auburn students interested in culinary-focused careers.

Plans received strong support in 2017 when James W. “Jimmy” Rane and the Rane family made a $12 million commitment to the building’s construction. Rane is a 1968 Auburn alumnus, longtime member of the Board of Trustees and chairman, president and chief executive officer of Great Southern Wood Preserving. The board later approved naming the facility in honor of his parents, Tony and Libba Rane.

Gifts to the College of Human Sciences, university general funds and revenue from the hotel, restaurant, a food hall and leased living units will cover the estimated project cost of $95.4 million. The Rane Culinary Science Center will be the first revenue-generating academic building at Auburn. The university seeks to raise an additional $13 million in philanthropic support through various naming opportunities within the building.

Construction at the corner of East Thach Avenue and South College Street will begin after an April groundbreaking ceremony.

The innovative teaching environment of the center will provide an inspiring learning platform for students to plan, market, manage and evaluate a commercial hospitality operation, while at the same time providing them with cutting-edge opportunities to develop technical and leadership skills.

Standing at the intersection of campus and community, the Rane Culinary Science Center will be a gathering place for all to use and enjoy.

Teaching areas of the center include:

The Laurel

The Laurel is the luxury boutique teaching hotel, where hospitality management students will gain hands-on practical experience working in all areas of hotel operations in a luxury 32-room facility. The spa on the sixth floor and the rooftop garden are parts of the Laurel. The garden will provide vegetables and herbs for food production throughout the center. The rooftop space can house small events. The Laurel is one of the center’s many features that can be enjoyed by the Auburn community and visiting guests.

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A 40-seat teaching restaurant, 1856 will feature a “Chef in Residence” program, where different nationally acclaimed chefs will provide a chef de cuisine to work hand-in-hand with culinary science instructors and students to create a restaurant of his or her own vision. The practical educational experience for junior-level students will take place during lunch service, while senior-level students will execute dinner service with instructors at their side. The restaurant will be open to the public.

Heyday Market

The 9,000-square-foot food hall will provide a number of food vendors for all to enjoy. A coffee bar will be inside the center with a small operational coffee roastery. Two vendor spaces will be food incubators, providing hospitality management and culinary science graduates the space at a minimal cost to begin and grow their own restaurants before venturing out on their own.

Wine Appreciation Center

On the second floor above 1856, the center will feature a tasting room for 50 students. The instructor will be a Master Sommelier or a Certified Wine Educator who will not only be teaching wine appreciation classes for students in the program and the campus at large, but also allow the community and hotel guests to experience such classes and tastings in the evening.

Distilled Spirits Center

Adjacent to the Wine Appreciation Center on the second floor, the Distilled Spirits Center will feature a micro distillery for the purpose of research as well as showing students the distillation process in an experiential sense. Classes will be open campus-wide and will allow an opportunity for the Auburn community and hotel guests to experience distilled spirit tasting before dinner in the Laurel.

Brewing Science Laboratory

This facility will feature a state-of-the-art, open concept, micro-teaching brewery, tasting room and microbiology laboratory to provide brewing science and hospitality management students with the hands-on education and training necessary for employment in the ever-expanding craft brewing industry. The facility will expose students to all aspects of commercial beer production, such as scientific principles and facility operation, as well as technological innovation and its influence upon production methods, quality control and the sensory profile of all beer produced.

Culinary Exhibition Lab

Up to 80 students can observe demonstrations in the lab from atrium-style seating on the second floor. The design of the lab on the lower level will include non-conventional cooking stations to expose students to various cooking techniques and innovative methods. The space lends itself to commercial cooking demonstrations, not only for Saturday culinary workshops, which are open to the public, but any night of the week for the community and hotel guests.

Food and Beverage Media Studio

Near the line in the exhibition lab, the studio will teach food and beverage photography and videography, helping to prepare future chefs, bar operators and restaurateurs to be media savvy. This media studio will be a unique resource for a hospitality management program in the United States.

Additional features of the center:

Culinary Get-Aways

A rotating roster of celebrity chefs will create weekend workshops using every aspect of the center, with guests staying at the Laurel, enjoying the rooftop gardens, eating in the Heyday Market and 1856, experiencing a cooking demonstration and taking a class in the exhibition kitchen and wine tasting in the wine appreciation center.

The Residences at the Laurel

Only six upper-level residences will be available for long-term leasing. Each 1,650-square-foot unit will have two bedrooms, three bathrooms, a full kitchen and space for entertaining. Residents will enjoy the rooftop swimming pool and bar, full-service spa and other amenities, as well as concierge services and valet parking from the hotel.

This story originally appeared on Auburn University’s website.

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

6 hours ago

Mobile Bay eastern shore ranked among best performing places in America

A recent report from Milken Institute found the cities of Daphne, Fairhope and Foley to be among the best performing small cities in America for job and wage growth, as well as other aspects.

Among the 18 cities ranked in the Milken Institute’s 2018 Best-Performing Cities Report, Daphne, Fairhope and Foley, Alabama, ranked as a top performer in the one-year job growth category.

Working in the area’s favor is the effort put in by small businesses adding high-skilled technical and engineering jobs.

Excerpt from the report, as follows:

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Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, located on the state’s Gulf Coast, is a top performer in the one-year job growth category. According to city officials, small businesses have been driving growth, adding high-skilled technical and engineering jobs.

The population of the metro has been growing steadily over a decade, but its population still sits at just a little under 200,000. The city has been praised recently for its eco-friendly strategies to keep its beaches clean.

Ranked first on the list is Bend-Richmond, Oregon, followed by St. George, Utah.

Kyle Morris also contributes daily to Breitbart News. You can follow him on Twitter @RealKyleMorris.

7 hours ago

Mary Margaret Carroll is a 2019 Woman of Impact

The world of lobbying can be tough — cutthroat, even. This holds true on Goat Hill just as it does on Capitol Hill.

Yet, in Alabama’s highly scrutinized and uber-competitive world of governmental affairs, Mary Margaret Carroll has not just managed to shine while staying above the fray; she has broken into a field that has historically – and recently – essentially been monopolized by men, using her intellect, character, demeanor and work ethic to become a star at one of the state’s premier lobbying shops: Fine Geddie & Associates.

The 2005-2006 Student Government Association president at the University of Alabama, Carroll has been a leader in whatever room she walked into for a long time. That is apparent from the moment you meet her, as former state senator Joe Fine – the co-founder of Fine Geddie – told Yellowhammer News.

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Fine reminisced on the moment he and the firm’s other cofounder, Bob Geddie, met Carroll.

“We met Mary Margaret over lunch in December 2012 and before our hour-long meeting was over, we asked her to hold any other job offers she received,” he shared. “We did not have an opening at the firm at the time, but Bob and I both liked her immediately. She was polished and reserved but very inquisitive.”

And they sure are glad that she did hold other job offers, beginning her career at Fine Geddie shortly after that meeting in 2013, when she became the first and only female professional in Alabama’s oldest governmental affairs shop.

Fine said, “The first week Mary Margaret was with us we began work on a tort reform measure that proved to be one of the most controversial bills I have ever encountered in my career. Mary Margaret was immediately valuable to our strategy development, our coordination with the Governor’s office, and the lobbying effort. She handled herself well at every turn there and has continued to do so since no matter how big or small the task.”

“Notably, she played a critical role very early in her career on important measures that had failed despite decades of prior proposals,” he continued. “Her second-year lobbying, she handled the effort to institute the Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit program. During her third year she negotiated with over 10 stakeholder groups to develop the prison sentencing reform proposal and managed the successful advocacy effort to generate support for it. This was an extraordinary feat – and she did it her own way. Mary Margaret works hard, thinks outside of the box, and adds tremendous value to our clients’ pursuits.”

Geddie echoed these thoughts, emphasizing that Carroll is “an integral part” of the Fine Geddie juggernaut.

“She joined us without previous government relations experience but has a great future,” Geddie remarked. “She has developed a keen insight to the state government decision-making process, rightfully earning the respect of policy makers and her peers. Hardly a day goes by where we do not receive a compliment on her professionalism, class and work product from a lawmaker or a client.”

“At Fine Geddie, we have tried to maintain a balance among our team with backgrounds in law, public policy and execution. Mary Margaret can do it all and she gets better each year,” he concluded.

From promoting the interests of Fortune 500 companies to some of the Yellowhammer State’s preeminent businesses and trade associations, Carroll has become an unquestioned guru on complex public policy issues, gaining the reputation of a direct, honest broker.

“From handling acute issues to leading sweeping reform efforts, Mary Margaret consistently develops thoughtful and effective strategies to address her clients’ interests. She has proven herself capable of handling anything in our firm’s portfolio with optimal results. We are very proud of her,” Fine stated.

Her integrity has been recognized time and time again, exemplified by her becoming one of the first lobbyists in the history of the state to be named to the Alabama State Bar’s Leadership Forum.

Carroll explained to Yellowhammer News, “I try very hard to lead by example.”

“It is imperative to treat others with respect, and equally important to be honest,” she said. “Credibility is everything in government relations work. You cannot advocate effectively or inform the process if you are not trustworthy or do not have a thorough understanding of your position. It requires a great deal of listening to gain a full understanding of the politics surrounding any issue.”

“I love my job,” Carroll emphasized. “It constantly presents me with opportunities to grow intellectually and professionally. Each project presents its own challenges and I am constantly seeing the world through a new lens.”

Her list of accomplishments in just a five-year period is incredible. A mere snapshot of the projects on which Carroll has made a critical contribution would make most 40-year state house veterans jealous.

For example, Carroll was integral in the successful effort for passage of legislation to authorize transportation network companies (Uber, Lyft, etc.) to expand services statewide. She helped lead negotiations with the various stakeholder groups to overcome opposition and develop the best policy proposal, also coordinating the lobbying and public relations strategy for the effort.

“I love projects where our goal is to pave the way for innovation and the digital economy,” Carroll advised. “In many instances current law reflects public policy concerns that are completely irrelevant to today’s world and may in fact be hindering commerce.”

Whether it was playing a key role in the successful economic development policy effort to incentivize increased use of the state’s port facilities and related capital investment or coordinating the effort to pass criminal sentencing reform designed to reduce prisons overpopulation, she has made a tremendous impact in the lives of thousands and thousands of Alabamians from her role behind the scenes.

“As a lifelong Alabamian, I always appreciate an opportunity to work on economic development projects that yield tangible results. Most memorable for me have been the effort to establish the historic rehabilitation tax credit program and various projects connected to the Port of Mobile, including the recent effort to fund the expansion,” Carroll said.

This type of service-oriented leadership captures Carroll’s motivation, which can be seen in her free time, too. She is involved with the YMCA Youth in Government program and serves on distinguished advisory boards at the University of Alabama.

Carroll frequently speaks to student groups about her experiences and the various ways one can serve the public and the greater good, noting that her time in student government at UA helped her develop as a leader and get to where she is today.

“It made me realize how much I enjoy problem solving through policy and working with others. But most of all, it taught me the importance of productive discourse and the need to be objective when working with others to resolve an issue,” Carroll stated.

She also has a long history of mentoring young women who are interested in politics and public service.

In fact, she shared that mentoring has been the most rewarding part of her career journey. Carroll had mentors who helped her get to where she is today, and mentoring young people is her way of paying it forward.

“I have been so fortunate to learn from visionary people whose stories have inspired me in many ways,” she said. “I believe we all have certain skills and talents we are meant to pursue in life and I am grateful for those who helped me identify and seize mine.”

Carroll continued, “I enjoy sharing my story and working with young people with the hope that I can help them the way so many have supported me over the years.”

For all the young girls out there aspiring to be a leader, Carroll shared some sage advice.

“There is no substitute for listening to others to gain understanding and hard work,” she said. “Focus on maximizing the opportunities you have been given, not minimizing opportunities for others. Never resort to cutting others to get ahead.”

Carroll stressed, “It is possible to be kind, compassionate and a fierce competitor all at once. Find a way.”

She also outlined how leaders need to be honest with themselves.

“Know what you do not know,” Carroll advised. “My grandfather, an attorney, would often say, ‘There is nothing greener than a new lawyer.’ I am not sure what prompted that tidbit of wisdom, but my guess is that it was premised on the notion that the classroom and the real world are two very different places and present very different tests.”

She concluded, “Those words rang in my head the first time I met the Fine Geddie team. During my initial meeting, I told them I knew nothing about government relations work and asked for advice on the best way to enter the industry. I wanted to learn. My guess is, more often than not, people want to work with, for, and hire people who are constantly seeking to improve themselves and their organizations. This starts with knowing what you do not know and being open to seeing or trying things in a new way.”

It is easy to see why Yellowhammer Multimedia twice previously listed her as a rising star in state politics and has referred to her as “a force for years to come.”

Now, Yellowhammer News is proud to name Mary Margaret Carroll a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

8 hours ago

Dale Jackson: Let’s get over the lottery hump and move on to more lucrative gambling talk

If you want the lottery and expanded gambling in the state of Alabama you should support the lottery bill proposed by State Senator Greg Albritton (R-Atmore).

Is the bill perfect? Absolutely not. In fact, I would argue it creates some new problems. By not protecting the questionably electronic bingo in pockets of the state, like Greene and Macon counties, this bill gives the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly on games of chance in the state if Attorney General Steve Marshall continues to pursue shutting down these entities and the courts agree with him.

This is not ideal. However, the alternative is to grant those entities a legal status that they do not deserve. If they are operating illegally, they shouldn’t be handed this gift. If they are operating legally, why do they need the protection of the lottery bill proposed by Sen. Jim McClendon (R-Springville)?

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Does this lottery bill allow the Poarch Band of Creek Indians a monopoly on games of chance in Alabama? It does.

Would McClendon’s bill bring in more revenue in the short-term? The analysis says yes.

But what if the lottery bill passes, the Poarch Band of Creek Indians expanded their gambling options and revenue grows and the citizens of the state of Alabama see that there are more revenue options available to the state?

Would a push for wider gambling ensue? Definitely.

Will legislators face calls to license gambling facilities in Birmingham, Montgomery, Huntsville and Mobile? Hopefully.

The lottery bill is not the end of the gambling conversation in Alabama. It is the elusive first step.

Let’s get beyond this first part and continue the conversation.

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 am weekdays on WVNN

9 hours ago

Alabama postal workers to get back pay, benefits

A Florida-based contractor will pay $329,057 in back wages and benefits to 53 postal delivery workers in Montgomery.

AL.com reports the decision comes after an investigation into St. Augustine, Florida-based Postal Fleet Services Inc. by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division.

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The department says the company violated requirements of two federal acts.

Investigators say Postal Fleet Services failed to pay drivers the prevailing rates for contract work performed for the U.S. Postal Service to haul mail in Montgomery and Tupelo, Mississippi.

The company also failed to pay drivers for sorting mail before their scheduled shifts and for time spent driving from one city to another between local routes.

Postal Fleet Services also failed to pay fringe benefits to employees and did not maintain records of hours employees worked.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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Hangout Fest combines music & VIP amenities to create an unforgettable experience

ORANGE BEACH, Ala. — Since the inaugural Hangout Festival in 2010, Orange Beach has emerged as an annual must-visit destination for music lovers around the world. Now in its tenth year, the festival — known worldwide as simply Hangout — is taking its VIP experiences to a new level, creating what the festival organizers are describing as a “music vacation” that concertgoers will never forget.

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The glittering white, sandy shores of Alabama’s Gulf Coast have long been a tourist attraction rivaling the best-known coastal communities in America and the Caribbean. But when the nation’s hottest bands, world-class dining experiences and unique amenities converge on the Yellowhammer State’s pristine shores, past attendees say something truly magical happens.

“It’s really unlike any other concert experience I’ve ever seen,” multi-time Hangout Fest attendee and Alabama resident Cliff Sims told Yellowhammer News. “It’s the one weekend a year when there’s no question where I’m going to be. It really is the perfect mix of my favorite people, great music, good food, and a well-run event.”

This year’s Hangout Fest, set to take place over the weekend of May 17th, will continue its now decade-long history of featuring some of the hottest names in music. Criss-crossing genres, the festival will be anchored by internationally known acts including Travis Scott, The Lumineers, Khalid, Cardi B, Kygo, The 1975, Diplo, Jimmy Eat World and dozens more.

On top of the musical performances, 2019 concertgoers will also be able to experience other attractions, including a ferris wheel, roller skating rink, beach bonfire, tropical spa and beach volleyball. The festival is also taking full advantage of technology to ensure a smooth experience for concertgoers. The Hangout Fest app allows attendees to create a personalized schedule, based on bands they select. They’ve also set up lockers inside the festival where concertgoers can charge their phones.

And for individuals looking to have an extra high-end experience, VIP and Super VIP options deliver unlimited access to additional perks like golf shuttles between stages, unlimited drinks, a daily buffet featuring food from world-class chefs, air-conditioned restrooms and a stage-side, VIP-only pool where they can enjoy the music while relaxing in the cool water. Super VIP’s will have all these perks and more, including hot tubs, catered gourmet meals in an air-conditioned dining room and exclusive access to the Super VIP-only Backstage Beach.

As an added bonus, the food exclusive to Super VIP’s will be crafted by some of the nation’s best culinary artists. Award-winning Chefs Annie Pettry, Cory Bar and Jason Goodenough will create memorable, fresh, mouth-watering meals for concertgoers to enjoy in between musical performances.

For the most incredible all-inclusive experience, the Hangout Fest is partnering with Aero Air Charter to offer attendees the Big Kahuna Air Package. This package includes everything Super VIP’s enjoy along with a round-trip private chartered flight straight to Gulf Shores, 24/7 concierge service, door to door transportation and more. Up to six friends can join in on the chartered flight with options for larger groups.

Tickets to what promises to be the music event of the year are now available at HangoutMusicFest.com.