GLENS FALLS — Enrollment in SUNY Adirondack’s culinary arts program has grown 175% from last year, bouncing back to pre-pandemic numbers.
Matthew Bolton, head chef and culinary professor, said that when he first started at the college, the original Bay Road location in Queensbury had approximately 70 students. The program grew even more, so after six years, the college in 2018 moved to 12 Hudson Ave. in Glens Falls into a restaurant it named Seasoned. Students get hands-on experience with the latest food trends — all in the heart of downtown. The front of the building looks like a fine-dining restaurant, but in the back there is a mix of classroom labs and commercial kitchen facilities.
Things were going well.
“Then COVID happened. Then we started losing students. The most I had were 79 students. Then I had 56, then around 36 last year,” Bolton said.
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Now, those numbers have rebounded.
The restaurant is open to the public when school is in session. The fall 2022 schedule runs from Oct. 12 to Dec. 8. Lunch is served every Thursday, while dinner is served every Wednesday and Thursday.
Bolton said the college selected those nights to be open so Seasoned is not competing with the local downtown establishments.
If enrollment numbers continue to increase, the college would consider adding more days, he said.
This summer, Seasoned is participating in “Take a Bite” downtown for the first time. He said college officials asked him “what we can do to keep the lights on during the summer.”
Entering into the fourth week of this year’s event, the restaurant has served around 40 to 50 customers on average, Bolton said.
The college is also offering Collaborative Cuisine events, in conjunction with Taste New York and Adirondack Craft Beverage Trail.
These events feature four-course meals highlighting Taste New York recipes and ingredients sourced from local farms, and paired with craft beverages from a different brewery each week.
Taste New York, a state organization, aims to educate people about the economic impacts of the food industry, diversify food options and promote food production within the state, through different partnerships.
“We find that the craft beverage pairing dinners are way more enticing for our clientele, so we usually sell out with our local brewers,” Bolton said.
The next Collaborative Cuisine event is on Aug. 5, and will feature carrot apple soup as the first course; a baked white fish meal for the second course; braised beef with roasted bone marrow flan; and the final course will be root beer buttermilk panna cotta.
Seasoned also offers culinary classes to high school and middle school students, through their Upward Bound and Summer Enrichment Culinary Camp programs.
“There’s a need for food service workers in the area,” Bolton said.
Seasoned has a good relationship with the other downtown restaurants. Bolton said internships are usually guaranteed for students enrolled in the culinary department, which more often than not leads to employment at that restaurant.
Bolton said that there is a wide age range among culinary students — anywhere between 17 and 78 years-old.
During the college semester, Bolton has 18 students in the main kitchen lab, and 15 in the bake shop on average, Bolton said.
“We also have lectures, so we have two classrooms each end of the building. So we can have two lectures, the bake shop and run the restaurant if we want to.”
Bolton has over 20 years of experience in the kitchen. He started as a dishwasher at Friends Lake Inn in Chestertown. He worked his way to becoming a sous chef and has since won awards.
Bolton said that the more consistent and stable hours as a college teacher is what attracted him to taking the position. He succeeded previous head chef Bill Steele.
“Because it is a college, I get to buy all kinds of fun stuff that most restaurants don’t get to play with and train students with. It’s sort of like a culinary dream job,” Bolton said.
Drew Wardle is a reporter for The Post-Star. You can contact him at 518-681-7343 or email him at [email protected]