Atop a hill on the campus of California Polytechnic Institute, Pomona, remote from the 21s and the Spagos of the world, a dream has unfolded aimed at creating the next Julia Child or Baron Hilton.
The dedication Sunday of a handsome complex dedicated to restaurant and hotel management, to culinary arts and wine service, concludes a seven-year quest by food visionaries who have long felt that the West, creator of fast food trends that swept the nation, lacked a center dedicated to food, service and hospitality education.
The James and Carol Collins Center for Hospitality Management was funded by $3.5 million in funds raised from donations and used no public funding. The 18,000-square-foot facility instantly becomes the West Coast's most energetic such collegiate program.
More than four dozen food and hospitality corporations donated $1,000 or more and dozens of other benefactors contributed smaller amounts to have the facility built to serve the 800 students now enrolled in Cal Poly's Hotel and Restaurant Management program, which began in 1973.
However, it wasn't until a decade later that Collins met with Dr. Robert Small, director of the center, and other interested parties plans were made to raise the funds to build the center.
Included in the building are some $200,000 in food preparation equipment, all donated by manufacturers. The equipment and the students are on view in a kitchen that is visible through a glass wall at the entrance to the restaurant area.
Plans call for the center to have a full-service, white tablecloth restaurant open to the public by September. Service will be Monday through Friday for lunch and Wednesday through Saturday for dinner. Wine and beer will be served; a full wet-bar will be on site, but used for laboratory purposes only.
Also included in the facility is a demonstration kitchen and a $650,000 research project sponsored by Southern California Edison to study energy use and efficiency in various food service appliances--a project that gives the school sophisticated equipment and gives the public utility much-needed data on the performance and energy demands of new food service equipment.
Tarun Kapoor, associate professor in the Center for Hospitality Management, said the hospitality program will make full use of the new facility.
"We have a class in catering management, and we intend to run catered events, conducted by the students," he said. Also part of the program will be a hotel management program including courses in front office management; hotel operations, and hotel sales and public relations.
Among four-year schools offering degrees in hospitality, Cornell University and Michigan State are considered the best schools in the nation.
Collins, chairman of Collins Foods International, parent company of the Sizzler restaurants chain, donated $1 million to have the center constructed, and he spoke briefly at Sunday's bread-cutting ceremony (which replaced the traditional ribbon-cutting).
"Fast food was started out West and has become successful around the country, and the only thing we didn't have was a world-class culinary center to compete with those in the east," said Collins. "Ten years from now, they're going to be talking about Cal Poly Pomona and then maybe about Cornell and Michigan State."
Kapoor pointed out that Cornell and Michigan State have emphasized hotel management in their hospitality programs, "but because of California's trend-setting history in the food area, we have decided to specialize in food and wine." He said that a master's degree program in the department may someday be offered.
Kapoor added that this undergraduate program was not intended to compete with programs such as those offered at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y., or the California Culinary Academy in San Francisco, but might be a prelude to further study at those programs.
The second phase of the center, for which fund-raising has already begun, will focus on the wine and alcoholic beverage management program. Phase 2, expected to cost about $3 million, already has a substantial grant from wine collector Elwell Averbeck.
Plans for Phase 2 include a wine cellar, a living wine library and a major wine-tasting facility that could be home for the Los Angeles County Fair wine competition. A number of California wineries have already said they will donate wines to start the cellar.
Architect for the center was John Tegtmeyer, a Cal Poly Pomona graduate who is with the architectural firm of Pederson, Beckhart, Wesley and Stice.
Among the graduates of the hospitality program here are Mark Peel, owner/chef at Campanile; Sam Manolakas, owner of Bradshaw's restaurant in Sacramento, and Rick Redman, general manager of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Palm Springs.
The program at present has 14 full-time instructors, but by September will have 20 full-time instructors.
Sunday's dedication ceremonies featured food prepared by eight of Southern California's top chefs. Visitors toured classrooms, student study areas, instructors' offices, the beverage management lab, a computer lab and the demonstration hotel classroom.
At Sunday's dedication, campus president Hugh O. La Bounty announced that the chairman and co-chairman of the center's advisory committee, respectively, would be Collins and Richard Frank, president and chief executive officer of Lawry's Restaurants Inc., for whom a lecture series at the center is named.