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Niagara County Community College's plan to open up a culinary arts institute and restaurant in downtown Niagara Falls is heating up and may soon be placed on the front burner.

George Bishop, college vice president and dean of academic affairs, told the board of trustees last week his study group, which is looking into the expansion program, recently toured several culinary institutions. They included one at Niagara College in Niagara Falls, Ont.

Bishop said some members met with Meredith Andreucci, USA Niagara Development Corp. president, to discuss a possible public-private partnership involving a student-operated restaurant.

The college has been looking into the idea for some time and is now doing serious groundwork to see if it's feasible, Lou Paonessa, college public relations director, said Friday.

Mark Mistriner, an assistant professor of culinary arts and a study group member, said one goal of having a college-run institute in Niagara Falls would be to triple the enrollment level of the college's current culinary and pastry arts programs.

"This year, 67 students are enrolled in the culinary program and 14 in the baking and pastry arts program," Mistriner said.

He said he envisions a development -- at a downtown location yet to be selected -- that would include a 100-seat restaurant in the prime tourist area serving lunch and dinner and staffed by NCCC students.

If the college goes ahead with the proposal, the location would require space for the restaurant facilities and nearby for academic operations.

The college would need a facility that would provide space for six teaching labs, storage areas, three lecture rooms, a conference room and a 125-seat high-tech amphitheater classroom that would function as a distance-learning site for students. Also, a student lounge and faculty offices would be needed since courses would be taught there, Mistriner said.

He said the new facility would provide up to 250 students with a real-life opportunity to learn.


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