CHARLESTON, W.Va. - With 16 years of experience in the restaurant industry and five years of experience teaching culinary arts, Gene Evans was uniquely qualified to set up West Virginia's newest culinary arts program.
This one, at West Virginia University-Parkersburg, is set to begin in March with eight students. Evans' goal is to have 75 to 100 students enrolled once the program is fully established.
"Ultimately, I don't want to be as large as Pierpont or Mountwest," he said, referring to programs at Fairmont's Pierpont Community & Technical College and Huntington's Mountwest Community & Technical College. Bridgemont Community & Technical College in Montgomery also offers a culinary degree.
Evans said college administrators decided there was a regional gap in programs and that's why they decided to embark on a new program in Parkersburg.
"They realized there was a need in the community - students from this area were going either to Hocking (in Ohio), over to Pierpont, down to Mountwest or heading to the Pittsburgh area," Evans said.
WVU-Parkersburg will offer both a two-year degree and a one-year certificate, though Evans said he will encourage students to pursue the associate's degree.
He was hired in July and spent his first months developing the curriculum.
"The facility (in downtown Parkersburg) starting taking shape in August. We're putting the finishing touches on it. I've been in a mad scramble ordering all my small wares," Evans said recently.
"It's been quite a process."
Evans said the size of the program is most appealing to him.
"One of the things I said when I interviewed here - and I was very adamant about it - was that the larger the class size gets, it becomes counterproductive," he said.