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Secchia Culinary Institute cooks up excellent program

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The Grand Rapids Community College Secchia Institute for Culinary Education is expected to receive its fourth consecutive seven-year accreditation, making it one of two schools in the nation to achieve this designation.

“It went very well,” said Dan Gendler, program director for the Secchia Institute. “We were told that we were one of the best programs in the nation. We had no non-compliant issues. They underestimated the size and quality of our program. The self study was extremely detailed and one of the best they’ve seen.”

The accreditors also took note of how the students felt about the program.

“The students are some of the best, most knowledgeable, confident, professional, and passionate they’ve seen,” Gendler said.

“The students love this program and it is a direct reflection on the faculty,” Gendler quoted from an email he received from the accreditors. “The students have some of the best uniformity we have seen in labs.”

What the Secchia Institute is accomplishing is no common feat.

“There’s somewhere between 660 and 700 programs. Two hundred to 250 are accredited by the American Culinary Federation,” Gendler explained. “And of those, about 50 or 60 are exemplary. Of those, only two have been accredited for the longest period of time.”

It’s very meaningful to GRCC that the Secchia Institute is able to accomplish this.

“I think it speaks to the fact of our quality and our commitment both to students, to the culinary profession and to the ACF as well,” he said. “Some of the big programs in the nation don’t even get accredited because they have the name, and people know they’re good through reputation, but for a program like ours, you talk about a community college that is 25 percent of the cost. Sometimes with that low price, people think they are getting less of an education. This accreditation gives us the credibility to say we are just as good as any other school in the nation, and we have the certificate to prove it. It’s bragging rights.”

Not only is this accreditation important to the faculty, but it also directly impacts the students.

“It’s important for me because I would like to continue my education here,” said culinary student Brittany Giddings, 21 “Honestly, I don’t know if it would happen if they lost their accreditation.”

The accreditors didn’t just talk to faculty. They also took time to interact with the students of the Secchia Institute.

“An accreditor came in and talked to us for fifteen minutes and asked us some questions,” Giddings said. “He asked us where things went, like the first aid kit, and all the emergency supplies.”

Gendler said the successful re-accreditation was the result of a team effort by current and former department leaders and staff.