Drexel students will help launch TV chef Carla Hall's casual, Nashville-inspired restaurants.
Chef and TV personality Carla Hall plans to open a number of casual, Nashville-inspired restaurants called Carla Hall’s Southern Kitchen, with the help of students from Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management.
Hall was a finalist on Bravo's “Top Chef” and is currently a co-host on ABC’s “The Chew.” Photo credit: Tristan Mosser.
Hall, who was a finalist on Bravo's “Top Chef” cooking competition show, is currently a co-host on ABC’s “The Chew” and the author of cookbooks such as Cooking With Love: Comfort Food That Hugs You and Carla’s Comfort Foods: Favorite Dishes from Around the World.
In a unique partnership, culinary and hospitality students at Drexel will work alongside Hall and her team to learn every aspect of opening a new restaurant and help develop the first location in New York City, which is expected to open in spring 2015.
James Feustel, a faculty member and director of the Department of Culinary Arts and Food Science, is overseeing the project. Before joining Drexel, he spent many years as a commercial foodservice facility designer, having designed kitchens in restaurants, universities and corporate cafeterias all over the country.
Feustel was originally consulted about the project for his kitchen design services, but realized that Drexel could get involved in a much larger way. “The scope of the project just mushroomed,” said Feustel.
As part of the collaboration, the Drexel team will:
- scale existing recipes, develop recipes and test menu items
- work on sourcing the best products
- analyze food, labor and energy costs
- design the restaurant kitchen
- test and recommend commercial equipment
- create “best practices” for Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen roll-out
- help recruit and hire restaurant team
Hall and her business partner visited Drexel’s campus in August to talk about the partnership. They toured Drexel’s facilities and Hall even surprised some students by serving as a judge on the final practicals in Professor Michael Traud’s Italian cooking class.
Hall visited Drexel in August to discuss the partnership and tour the facilities.
Drexel students can participate in this opportunity in a number of different ways – students can register for a new fall-term class entitled “Culinary 465: Drexel Restaurant Lab,” which will focus on the project. They can also participate as an extension of the Drexel Food Lab, through volunteering and, in limited cases, through paid student-worker positions.
“This is not just a culinary class – students will be involved with every aspect of the business – from creating marketing plans to employee training to working with architects,” Feustel said. “This is a real project with real deliverables.”
One of the class’ first assignments will be to take Hall’s famous Nashville Hot Chicken recipe – which normally serves 4-6 people – and modify it to serve for 600 people daily.
Chef James Feustel is a faculty member and director of the Department of Culinary Arts and Food Science, who is overseeing the project.
“Commercializing recipes isn’t that simple – you can’t just multiply a recipe times 100, especially when you are using commercial equipment. Recipes need to be tested in order to get the same quality on a much larger scale.”
They won’t just be scaling up recipes, however. They’ll also be developing new ones, including a recipe for a Southern chopped salad and other new menu items.
“Our goal is to have our students graduate with experience, having solved real problems in the hospitality industry,” said Feustel. “This class certainly delivers on that promise.”
Hall has launched a Kickststarter campaign to raise $250,000 in order to get the restaurant off the ground. The campaign begins Sept. 24. To learn more, visit http://carlahall.com/kickstarter.