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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Culinary Students Get New Retail Space and Kitchens

  • Baking I students work on goods that will be sold in The Sweet Spot.

Over the summer, the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management department got a sweet new retail space and some much-needed kitchen renovations.

The Sweet Spot, which sells a variety of baked goods prepared by students, took over the space on the first floor of the Student Center building previously used by The Washtenaw Voice. The student newspaper moved to a larger space in the T&I building.

The Sweet Spot opens Sept. 23, and is the practical part of CUL 140, Bakery Management and Merchandising, a class that began in the fall of 2008. “This is not a baking class. I teach marketing, cost control, customer and community relations—the important things to know to run a successful business,” said Sharyl Politi, a culinary arts instructor who has been a pastry chef for 16 years and most recently was the pastry manager at Zingerman’s Bakehouse.   

The Sweet Spot is only open two hours a week, noon to 1:00pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, yet last year it averaged between $150 and $200 in receipts daily. Politi hopes to expand the hours as demand grows. Prices range from under a dollar for a macaroon to $15 for a whole cheesecake.

Politi consults with pastry instructor Cheryl Hanewich, who is also the pastry chef for Main Street Ventures, letting her know what is popular and what items “need to go on vacation for awhile.”  

“When we decide what to make each week, I have to keep in mind that our pastry students need to experience all the basics,” Hanewich said. “We also consider what would sell and how to present it to catch someone’s eye.”

According to Hanewich, the best sellers are individual items like brownies, cookies, and small pies. “We know that our marketing target are students and staff, and they are usually on their way to class or the office and want something they can eat in their hand,” she said.

WCC staff member Angela Law can’t wait for The Sweet Spot to open. “If I had my way they’d be open more days, more hours so I could get my fix anytime,” Law said. “My favorite thing they make is whatever I had last.”

Hanewich sees The Sweet Spot as a great addition to the baking curriculum. “My students stop by The Sweet Spot and can say, ‘I made that!’”

Maybe not as sweet, but very important nonetheless were upgrades made to the instructional kitchen in SC 124. Almost all of the kitchen equipment the students were using was original to the 1972 facility. Terri Herrera, chair of the Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management department, hoped to completely redesign the kitchen space but internal mechanicals made that impossible. So using the same square footage, a professional architect designed the kitchen to replicate what students would find in a commercial environment. It includes 16 workstations, two new production lines, new hand sinks, high-end commercial grade equipment, and new point-of-sale cash registers.

It’s stocked with equipment that includes:

  • Steam jacket
  • Eight- and 10-burner stoves
  • Butcher block table
  • Flat-top grill
  • Griddle
  • Double-decker broiler
  • Two new flat-screen TVs for instruction

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