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South Seattle College's Pastry Program Is Closing After All

“It is unfortunately no longer fiscally responsible to continue running the program.”

By Grace Madigan September 20, 2018

South Seattle's bakery and pastry program has been around for decades, producing talent who now work in numerous kitchens around the Seattle area. Photo courtesy of South Seattle College

Perhaps you’ve stopped by Bakery Nouveau for a little afternoon pastry, or maybe you swear by Macrina’s bread for your sandwiches. What about Tom Douglas's Dahlia Bakery (hello, famous coconut cream pie)? 

Seattle runs on coffee and baked goods, and soon it will lose a bit of what makes it all possible: training and education. In an emailed statement on Monday afternoon, South Seattle College announced the closure of its bakery and pastry program, citing budget cuts and low enrollment.

The decision comes just one week before classes start for South Seattle. The school’s statement says that all 17 enrolled students  will return for fall classes. It’s unclear whether the two instructors Kimberly Smith and Christopher Harris will return to teach those classes.

“[W]ith the serious challenges facing the pastry and baking arts today,” said South Seattle president Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap in the statement, “it is unfortunately no longer fiscally responsible to continue running the program.”

Bakeries, like the aforementioned, looked at the college’s program as a pipeline for employees. Tom Douglas is a strong supporter of the program as is William Leaman, chef and owner of Bakery Nouveau, who spoke out against the program’s closure.

“You get someone from South [Seattle College] and they can cut a pan of brownies,” Leaman told us in an earlier article. “It’s not hard to cut a pan of brownies but you’d be amazed at some of the kids I see.” Some fledgling bakers, he said, arrive with an attitude of I only make this or I only make that.

Samone Thomas, one of the students enrolled in the program, picked South Seattle because of its location and the fact that everyone she talked to told her their program was the best. And while other community colleges around the area do offer bakery and pastry programs none have the reputation that South does.

Thomas also picked the program because of its affordability. The Art Institute of Seattle runs up to $43,000 while South’s program costs a fraction of that at $12,000.

There was no indication from South Seattle that they had made the decision to close the program when Thomas went in to the school to register for her classes and sort out financial aid. The first time she heard anything from the school regarding the future of the program wasn’t until Sunday when she got an email saying they would no longer accept any new students. On Monday, Thomas said she got a second email stating that the program would close. 

From what she understands, Thomas will be able to finish out the program at South Seattle. However, she notes that the experience won’t be the same. 

South Seattle will still operate its culinary arts program while their sister school, Seattle Central College, will be the only one of city’s community colleges to offer a bakery and pastry program.

Both instructors, Kimberly Smith and Christopher Harris declined to comment for this article.

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