Horry-Georgetown Technical College's culinary offerings may have been one of the best-kept secrets on the Grand Strand at one time, but they are no secret anymore.
Area residents have spread the word about the college's Fowler Dining Room and Beach Bistro 354, where culinary students learn the ropes of preparing and serving tasty meals, while residents dine at a reduced cost.
But HGTC programs offer more community services than dining. The college has a dental hygiene clinic, and a new dental clinic is under way.
Members of the public also can access a variety of cosmetology services, as well as those in aesthetics and massage. While services are seasonal and dependent on class schedules, they can be a bargain for those looking to save and to help students get the valuable training they need.
HGTC offers more internships for academic programs than other programs in the area, said Marilyn Fore, the college's senior vice president for academic affairs. She said their Career Resource Center is always looking to place students, and local businesses don't have to pay if they're interested in working with students.
Currently, the dental hygiene clinic on the Conway campus offers preventive care services such as teeth cleaning and X-rays, and students are supervised by program professors. The programs have been popular with retirees and those on fixed incomes.
Fore said they are looking forward to the dental clinic's move to the Grand Strand campus in about a year. An expansion to the Dr. Robert E. Speir Jr. Healthcare Education Center building will allow for a new clinic that will help meet the dental needs of the community, and it will feature 21 state-of-the-art dental stations, Fore said.
The Fowler Dining Room and the Beach Bistro 354 have been building up their reputations for years, and the college estimates that more than 12,000 lunches are served annually between the two restaurants.
Chef Carmen Catino, academic coordinator for the Culinary Arts Technology program, has been at HGTC for 22 years. He said the course of study for an associate degree is listed under business programs because beyond cooking, students must take a range of subjects such as management, accounting, psychology and restaurant law so they can work in a variety of areas when they graduate.
First-year students get their feet wet working on four-course meals for the Bistro, located in the Conference Center on the Grand Strand campus. Five-course meals are served by second-year students at Fowler, on the Conway campus. Catino said cuisine at the Bistro is more American, while Fowler features "more international flair."
"[Diners] are certainly very receptive to the cuisine and the students," Catino said, adding that because students serve as well as prepare the food, "They have more of a rapport with [their customers]."
Fore said when the culinary arts program first began, it was designed more for short-order cooks making soups and sandwiches, and students could earn a food service certificate.
"But the demand grew for fine dining, and we saw there was a need for trained chefs," Fore said, which led the college to develop the two-year associate degree program.
Catino said the culinary program has grown from about 23 students in 1989 to the current 127. Its popularity is evident by the two- to three-week waiting list they had for the fall. Catino said they cut off reservations so they aren't too far ahead and will begin taking them again on Jan. 3 for seatings on Jan. 10. They will not take standing reservations, and there is a limit of four per semester.
"We wait and give everybody an opportunity to make a reservation," Catino said. "We have people in the fall who were calling up from Canada just to make a reservation for when they'll be here. They know how difficult it is."
In an effort to experiment and expand, evening meals will debut soon on the Grand Strand campus.
"We'll try that out in the springtime for five weeks," Catino said. "We're going to try out an evening session just because the program has gotten so large, it warrants trying to move some students around."
HGTC services also extend to beauty, offering cosmetology services at the Conway campus that include haircuts, shampoos, color, cornrows, braids and dreadlock maintenance.
Mary Cox, cosmetology program director, said that when students graduate, "It's not just talking the talk. ... They are ready to go to work. Their transition from school to work is very easy."
Nails and facials are available and also are offered at the aesthetics salon on the Grand Strand campus, which is home to the massage therapy clinic. Massage appointments are offered throughout the summer.
Contact VICKI GROOMS at 443-2401.