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TCL’s Culinary Institute open in Bluffton’s Buckwalter Place

Correction: This story has been updated to accurately reflect the layout and cost of the finished Culinary Institute of the South, and the spelling of Miles Huff’s name.

After six years in the making, Technical College of the Lowcountry’s $15.3 million Culinary Institute of the South opened its doors Thursday.

The ribbon cutting — done with a chef’s knife instead of traditional scissors — in Bluffton involved scores of local and state officials, students and pastries for guests, as college employees put on tours and tastings across the two-story campus.

The college broke ground on the culinary institute in 2019, but first proposed the 30,305-square-foot facility at Buckwalter Place in 2015 as a response to the shortage of restaurant workers in the county.

It can hold 300 students, with six classrooms, two teaching kitchens, a baking lab, a lecture theater, a café and a teaching restaurant; there’s also a museum in the building dedicated to Southern food that will open next year.

Students will begin classes in the building in January, though several who have enrolled in the college’s culinary degree programs were on hand Thursday to serve macarons and cannoli in the café alongside employees from Corner Perk and Bluffton Tea Company. In the lecture theater, which will be used to feature visiting chefs, they served blackberry dessert bites and salmon rolls.

The institute’s price tag was supported by several local agencies, including $2.5 million from Beaufort County School District, $8.2 million from Beaufort County and $500,000 from the Town of Bluffton.

In the long term, the school is partnering with several local and national companies, including:

  • The Sea Pines Resort
  • Serg Group
  • The Omni Hilton Head Oceanfront Resort
  • The Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
  • The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa
  • US Foods
  • Fat Patties

Miles Huff, the dean of the culinary institute, said Thursday that the grand opening “means everything” to him.

“The excitement is still coming,” he said. “Two tour companies with buses have reached out already. They want to make this a regular stop on their trips.”

This story was originally published November 18, 2021 2:46 PM.

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Rachel Jones covers education for the Island Packet and the Beaufort Gazette. She attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and has worked for the Daily Tar Heel and Charlotte Observer. She has won awards from the South Carolina Press Association, Associated College Press and North Carolina College Media Association for feature writing and education reporting.