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March 12. 2012 2:18PM

Class is in session at Hampton culinary school's new bistro


Seven students ranging in age from 19 to 58 are currently enrolled in the Chez Boucher Professional Cooking School in Hampton. Some will now have the option to complete a 1,000-hour apprenticeship program in the Savory Square Bistro, which shares an owner and operating space with the cooking school. 

Chez Boucher Culinary Arts School has been training would-be chefs for the past five years, but until recently, had to send them outside for real-life experience.

Not having a restaurant also restricted cash flow, as most funds came in to Chez Boucher just three or four times a year when the 16-week programs began.

But owner Ron Boucher solved that problem on Feb. 1 when he opened the doors of the Savory Square Bistro at 32 Depot Square, where he has operated his cooking school for about three years.

The 65-seat restaurant at the corner of routes 1 and 27 is now host to a 1,000-hour apprenticeship program that is certified by the American Culinary Federation and augments the 16-week Professional Culinary Arts Program that Chez Boucher has been offering since 2007.

Right now, the bistro is open Wednesday through Saturday from 4 to 10 p.m. and on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for brunch and employs three paid apprentices who graduated from the professional program in October.

Boucher said in addition to helping graduates, the restaurant provides the cooking school with a regular stream of money.

“Prior to the model we have, there were peaks and valleys in cash flow.

A restaurant, when it opens five nights a week, allows us to bring in consistent cash flow,” he said.

But above that, it also allows the culinary school to put out a more highly qualified graduate as a result of the apprenticeship opportunities, he said, as acceptance to the program is based on performance and merit.

Boucher said the standard culinary training program takes two to three years, and can cost significantly more than the $10,000 it costs to attend the Chez Boucher program.

“This is designed to get students into the workplace quickly,” he said, adding that it can also be used as a starting point for further culinary education.

Students are in class three days each week for six hours, learning cuisine, of course, but also presentation, menu costing and design, and the basics of how to function in a professional kitchen. “The only promise we make is when they leave here they will know how to cook,” Boucher said.

Once students complete the course, they earn a certificate of completion from Chez Boucher Professional Cooking School. If they complete the apprenticeship, they also receive entry-level certification as culinarians from the American Culinary Federation.

If they are not accepted into the apprenticeship program, they must complete a 144-hour externship in an approved restaurant to complete their certification. Chef-instructor Peter Goodsell said they have never had a problem placing students in a qualified restaurant for this purpose. The Professional Culinary Arts Program was built upon the increasingly popular public courses and workshops Chez Boucher has been offering since 2003.

A full schedule of public and professional course offerings, as well as information about and a menu for Savory Square Bistro is available at www.chezboucher.com.


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