After 13 years in the making, the Tony and Libba Rane Culinary Science Center is open and student enrollment is growing.
“I believe we’re at 362 students for the fall, and I mean last fall we were close to 230,” said Martin O’Neill, department chair for Auburn University’s Hospitality Management Program. “… And I would attribute that to the interest in that center and the very different nature of that facility.”
Graduate students can focus on one of three different options: hotel and restaurant management, event management, and culinary science.
Tyler Schmidt, an Auburn junior, is one of the students who decided to switch majors after his freshman year and pursue culinary science. “I just walked by that building every day and quickly saw how much they were investing in this program,” Schmidt said.
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The undergraduate program will be limited to 500 students to ensure that each student receives the attention they need to succeed after graduation.
“I wouldn’t want to be a factory,” O’Neill said. “Some of the schools in the United States are what I refer to as an education factory. There is no investment in people or quality control in terms of what is delivered, when it is delivered or how it is delivered. We have a very , very different to all that.”
Schmidt said his course of study feels cramped.
“While the program is growing, I still consider us a small major,” he said. “I’ve had professors many times and I’ve grown really, really close to them.”
Although the classroom space is currently being used only for students in the College of Human Sciences, there are talks of opening the courses to prospective Auburn University students and those in the community in the future.
Right now, reservations can be made for 1856, the teaching restaurant located on the first floor of the Tony and Libba Rane Center for Culinary Sciences.
The 46-seat restaurant is where students in the College’s Hospitality Management Program will work under the direction of a chef to prepare lunch and dinner options.
“I have a class of about 15 people and every week we go through different stations. So the first five weeks, I’ll be working the grill,” Schmidt said. “It looks like they’ll have a good portion of the kitchen staff, kind of guiding quality control between all the stations.”
The dining experience will be a tasting menu offered for $95 per person. For an additional $85 per person, a master sommelier has created a spirit pairing for the menu.
“We have a wonderful opportunity to do really great things with our students individually in terms of training and developing them from simple operators to supervisors and managers of those facilities,” O’Neill said.
Another way to experience the new center is through the Laurel Hotel and Spa, which will open on August 29. Laurel has 10 suites, six residences, a spa, fitness studio, rooftop pool and yoga pavilion.
Students will be able to work hands-on in the hospitality industry while immersing themselves in comprehensive training in partnership with The Laurel.
“When you consider the guest cycle from booking to checkout, in the fact that again, like with 1856 students, we’re going to touch every single element first,” O’Neill said.
Hotel amenities, such as the heated infinity pool, are available to guests only. The spa will be available to the public and bookings will open soon.
Access to the roof bar will be controlled by the operator, Ithaka Hospitality Partners. Reservations to host a private event at the bar will be available in the near future.
“So we want what I call an open-door, open-minded approach to all of this,” O’Neill said. “The more people we have biking there, not just from our college, but from other colleges around campus and the community. Overall, I think the better for us and the better for the university community.”
A microbrewery and tasting room is slated to open in March 2023 at the new center, with a cafe and coffee shop coming soon.