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Rod Smith

Las Vegas Culinary Academy Opens

26 August 2004

LAS VEGAS -- To better serve what has become the fastest-growing segment of the hospitality industry in Las Vegas, the Culinary Training Academy today will open a $3 million, 11,000-square-foot kitchen classroom at Nevada Partners.

According to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, food preparation and serving-related occupations are expected to provide the single largest source of growth of employment in the Las Vegas area over the next eight years.

The number of jobs is projected to grow from 103,043 in 2002 to 151,477 in 2012, a 47 percent increase.

D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Local 226, the largest union in Nevada, said the state projections prove the need for the new kitchen classroom to help the gaming industry keep up with expansion demands.

Janice Decker, executive director of human resources for MGM Grand, said growth at Strip properties is mainly in the food and beverage segment

Previously regional director of employment for Caesars Entertainment, Decker said the training academy has gone to great lengths over two years of planning to make sure it could help the gaming industry fill the rapidly increasing number of food and beverage positions.

"This is a key piece we've been waiting for a very long time," Decker said."What we need are programs to deliver people with the right training for the new kind of kitchens serving the new fine dining restaurants at properties such as MGM Grand."

Steven Horsford, chief executive officer of the training academy, said the new training kitchen is important because there aren't enough skilled craftsmen in Las Vegas to fill the 48,000 food preparation jobs being created by 2012, most in the next two years.

"They need to be trained in Southern Nevada, and this new classroom will let us do it for the industry," he said.

The state-of-the-art, full-service kitchen and training center at Nevada Partners, home of the academy, is modeled after kitchens in the resort industry.

Horsford said this is particularly important because most new restaurants offer fine dining and require higher skill levels than a buffet or a coffee shop.

Taylor said the changing nature of the gaming industry and restaurants in Las Vegas makes the retraining of current workers at least as important as training new recruits.

Horsford stressed that the training programs offered in the new kitchen classroom will be aimed both at entry-level academy students and current employees looking for advancement.

He meets regularly with major gaming company executives who reiterate their need for more skilled food preparers.

Horsford said the challenge for the training academy, a nonprofit partnership of the Culinary union and 24 resort operators, is not in recruiting workers but in training them for ever-more demanding positions.

"We'll have to continue our recruitment program over the next two years when the peak will happen because of the new towers, the new properties and the new standards in the industry," Horsford said.

The training academy in March successfully launched a first-of-its-kind ad blitz to recruit workers for the gaming industry

The state-of-the-art equipment in the new kitchen will allow training academy students to train with the same tools they will use in kitchens at the local resorts, while learning to produce large volumes of food at top speed.

Horsford said the kitchen classroom is important not only to the gaming industry, but also to the larger community because of the meals it provides through the federally funded summer feeding program and local senior centers.

He said the new center also will provide banquet space for community groups such as church and youth groups and civic organizations.

Taylor said the new kitchen classroom is also important to the union because of the greater opportunities it will open up for members' advancement.