NWF State College: Seagrass Pop-up Restaurant
Breaking the Traditional Boundaries of Culinary and Hospitality Management Education
The popularity of pop-up restaurants is gaining momentum along the Gulf Coast. Seagrass – one of the most recent pop-up restaurants to hit our sandy shores – is the latest addition to the NWF State College’s Culinary Management and Hospitality & Tourism Management degree programs. Cited as the second most popular restaurant trend in the 2019 National Restaurant Association’s What’s Hot Culinary Forecast, Seagrass is not your typical pop-up restaurant. It is a restaurant run entirely by NWF State College Culinary Management and Hospitality & Tourism Management students.
With a seating capacity of 60, Seagrass, located on the NWF State College’s Niceville campus, is an effective setting for students to enhance their culinary and hospitality education and skills in a fine-dining environment. “The venue was conceived for Culinary Management and Hospitality & Tourism Management students to practice their craft in a live environment where they would receive immediate feedback,” says Layne Eggers, Assistant Professor of Culinary Management. Culinary students rotate through the various positions in the kitchen – from station chef to sous chef – learning the intricacies of each role while further developing their culinary skills. “The dining room (front of the house) is managed by the hospitality class, while second-year culinary students run the back of the house,” continues Julie Cotton, Director of Culinary and Hospitality & Tourism Management. “Incorporating this program into the course curriculum is unique compared to other local culinary and hospitality education programs.”
Meeting with tremendous success, Seagrass opened its doors with a static one-day-per-week lunch menu in September 2019. Eggers developed the menu with a focus on culinary technique. Second-year students honed their skills preparing and serving meals for the public, taking away hands-on experience they would never have obtained solely in a classroom setting.
January of 2020 welcomed the programs’ first International and Regional Dinner Series with six themed dinner events throughout the semester. Eggers developed the series and menu to complement the Spring curriculum – International and American Regional Cuisine. In the kitchen, students apply the different cooking styles and techniques they are currently learning in the classroom. Given the explosion in support of the student-run restaurant, all six dinner events sold out before mid-January. “We are humbled by the support from our local community as we strive to provide a holistic learning environment for our students,” said Dr. Devin Stephenson, NWFSC president. “Seagrass Restaurant is just one example of the excellence of our programs at Northwest Florida State College.”
Cotton developed NWF State College’s culinary management model using the basic framework provided by the State of Florida. She continues to incorporate unique leading-edge programs to prepare students for careers in high-end restaurant management and fine-dining environments. “Each semester students participate in lab classes where they cook hands-on in the classroom. The experience they gain during labs is critical to the success of their careers in the professional world. The curriculum is vigorous, and Chef Eggers does a magnificent job preparing students for success,” says Cotton. “Dr. Stephenson has been very supportive and encouraging of the program and its growth. We would not have so quickly achieved this degree of success without his support.”
Northwest Florida State College continues to provide students with an unparalleled education. It is an institution that prides itself on adopting unprecedented programs in support of producing extraordinary professionals. Students graduate from the Culinary Management and Hospitality & Tourism Management programs not only with a SACSCOC-recognized degree but a strong competitive advantage in the food and beverage industry.
Northwest Florida State College
100 College Blvd E
Niceville, FL 32578
*Reservations – (850) 502-2895 (reservations will be available beginning the last week in August).
Images Courtesy of Northwest Florida State College