Your name on a chocolate room?

SRJC Culinary Arts Center nears completion

Like guests on a tour of Willy Wonka’s factory, before us stands the dedicated ice cream and chocolate room. Everyone oohs and ahhhs, it’s possible there was clapping.

Despite the fact that the yet-unfinished room is still mostly sheet rock and bare outlets, the inside temperature is nearing 90 degrees, and we’re tripping over discarded nails and piles of lumber rather than candy toadstools and whipped cream flowers. there’s a moment of sweet imagination for all of us.

Mmmm. Chocolate and ice cream.

In just about six months, this diabolically delicious space, along with the rest of Santa Rosa Junior College’s spanking new B. Robert Burdo Culinary Arts Center will be up and running. Now in the final phases of construction, the $20 million building is slated for completion by December 2011.  The 22,000 square foot center will include a new student-run cafe, five commercial kitchens, onsite retail bakery, classrooms, wine library and barbecue patio, and specially tiled, temperature controlled chocolate and ice cream room.

And your name could be on any one of them.

In order to provide a $1 million student endowment, the school is selling “naming opportunities” at the center. What that means is that everything from the cafe to the ice cream room are available for naming — at a price. Ranging from $5,000 for a hallway to $250,000 for the dining room and demonstration kitchen. The cafe’s pizza oven can have your name on it for $10,000; the production bakery for $50,000 and the ice cream and chocolate room a cool $10,000.

Located on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa, just across from the main campus, the forthcoming culinary center it’s been a source of curiosity and eager anticipation for more than a year as construction on the two-story building commenced. BiteClub was among those who got a hard-hat sneak preview tour this week.

The building itself, which Michael Salinger, chair of the SRJC consumer and family studies department (but best known as the head toque at the student-run cafe at Santa Rosa’s Brickyard Center) moons over like a proud father  was long ago paid for with Measure A Bond Funds. But the center still has a hefty $1 million fund-raising goal to pay for scholarships and equipment.

“We are always struggling to accommodate a wide range of students,” said Salinger. That includes economically diverse students, many who are in their 30s, 40s and 50s; sometimes struggling financially and unable to pay for tuition, books and expensive knives required for the program. “We have had students who were once homeless,” said culinary arts instructor Betsy Fischer.

With the opening of the center, Salinger hopes to increase the number of days the cafe is open to the public (currently three), to include a Friday night dinner and brunch. The cafe’s capacity, about 60 diners, will remain about the same as its current location, but will include an outdoor patio with a grill and pizza oven. “We didn’t want to get overwhelmed,” Salinger said. Watching the white-jacketed baking students will still be a main focus, as well. Salinger specified that the windows facing Mendocino Ave. feature a view of the baking and pastry kitchen, something many people said they liked about the current Brickyard location.

According to Salinger, the growing program long ago outgrew its current digs and has had to turn away students to the popular year-long cooking degree. It currently has about 300 students enrolled each semester. The spring class of 2012 will be the first to use the center full-time.

Interested in having your name on a room? Find out how to make a gift online.