Today is Monday, August 21, 2017

A Visit to the Culinary Center At Cumberland University

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The Art of Food Preparation Cumberland University is fortunate to be part of an exciting new business venture in Wilson County. Thanks to many local advocates including State Representative, Stratton Bone, Linda Shelton of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and Sue Sykes, President of Tennessee Gourmet, Lebanon has been chosen to be the home of the new Cumberland Culinary Center.

Cumberland University is the principle local business sponsor of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture program that will be located at 411 Tennessee Boulevard at a site near the Lebanon Vocational Center on the Lebanon High School campus. The new 2,400 square foot facility will house a commercial kitchen and storage facility and will be a place that aspiring entrepreneurs, local farmers and educators can come together to prepare, market and sell food products.

The facilities’ three hundred thousand dollar cost is being covered by the university, state and federal grants and local sponsors such as Lochinvar Corporation.

Over one hundred billion dollars is spent on specialty foods every year in the U.S. and organic food products are an exploding and highly profitable market niche. The center will make available a commercial kitchen to home cooks, professional cooks, small or large business owners and local farmers who are wanting to tap into this market. With the help of the facilities’ director and staff they will be able to take a food product from concept, through preparation, to packaging, marketing and, thereafter, commercial sales.

The center will help these producers find potential buyers of their products such as grocery chains and other retailers including Kroger, FoodLand, Publix, Whole Foods, Earth Fair, Specialty Gourmet, and Sherlock’s Book Emporium. The public will also have the opportunity to purchase the products directly from the center, as it will eventually have a retail outlet adjoining the facility.

The Director of the center, John Cook, is very excited that this new venture will be located in Lebanon. Mr. Cook, who has years of experience in product development, formulating recipes, packaging, marketing and sales, is the perfect person to spearhead the center. According to John, “the center will be onestop shop.” It will be a place that the home cook can take a family recipe, learn how to change the recipe for mass production, then mass produce it, market it and eventually see it placed on a grocery chain store shelf. “This will all be done right here in Wilson County at very favorable rate compared to other private, for-profit, commercial kitchens.”

Both John and Linda believe the partnership with the university is an excellent match. The university students will be involved in the culinary center.Under John’s direction, they will be involved in helping these local entrepreneurs with nutritional analysis, cost modeling, production planning, packaging, distribution and marketing and in turn will receive invaluable on the job training that will certainly help them as they move from the university into careers. In conjunction with the center’s opening, Cumberland University will begin offering a Hospitality Management minor for these students who will be receiving hands-on training.

The center is projected to open in the fall of 2008. While private and public funding will be needed to keep it operational at first, it is hoped that in a very short time the center will be self-sustaining. Once the center is in full swing, we can expect local farmers to be involved in growing products needed by the clients of the center. Thereafter, these clients will bring even more dollars into the local economy as their food concepts are packaged and distributed into the market.

It is certainly evident that Cumberland University Culinary Center has gathered all the ingredients for a successful food business right here in Wilson County. It’s an exciting time for all those involved. For those interested in learning more about the center, please contact John Cook at 1-615-547-1376 or visit

For more great stories on Wilson County visit Wilson Living Magazine at

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