Now They’re Cooking

by Jun 14, 2022Education, North Brunswick

Brunswick Community College’s Douglas Terhune Center for Culinary Arts is up and running and already changing lives.

When Brunswick County resident Doug Terhune heard that the cafeteria at Brunswick Community College was sitting empty, he made it his personal call to action to put it to good use. The cafeteria had been used by early college high school students, but when those students were shifted to the main cafeteria on campus, it was left vacant.

Terhune, who has served on the Brunswick Community College (BCC) Foundation Board for nine years and in June will have served on the BCC Board of Trustees for eight years, had been looking for a way to give back to the college.

“When I learned about the cafeteria becoming empty, I put two and two together,” he says. “I felt that the college and the community could benefit from a culinary program.”

Originally from Ridgewood, New Jersey, just outside of New York City, Turhune moved to Wilmington in 1999 from Boston, where he had held a job in industrial automation for the previous 20 years. When he came to Wilmington, he started a new career in real estate. Last year his firm, Carolina Plantations Real Estate, welcomed 500 new families to Brunswick County.

“Look around,” he says. “We have four barrier islands and a whole load of visitors in Brunswick County. We are a hot bed for hospitality.”

Terhune credits his mother, Ginny, with cultivating his interest in the culinary arts, or as he more simply puts it, a love of eating.

Douglas Terhune Teaching Kitchen

“My mom, a housewife, did an excellent job with dinner every night by being creative on a budget,” Terhune says. “My father insisted on dessert. So Mom had to change it up. She did a great job. The key was variety.”

With the motivation of his culinary interests and his well-honed business development skills, Terhune worked closely with BCC Vice President Greg Bland, economic workforce development leaders, continuing education teams and BCC Foundation Executive Director Elizabeth Wassum in getting the school off the ground. Terhune describes it as “an excellent collaboration.”

“We communicated with local owners, toured commercial kitchens, observed employee-employer interactions, conducted interviews with an advisory team and made every effort to ensure that our plans focused on the success of Brunswick County restaurant owners,” Bland says.

Experts from Horry Georgetown Technical College in Myrtle Beach provided counsel on how to configure the culinary space and what equipment was required. Terhune’s initial personal gift of $115,410 set the renovations in progress.

BCC Culinary School

The result is the state-of-the-art Douglas Terhune Center for Culinary Arts. The center is equipped with 10 cooking stations featuring hot plates that turn on and off in seconds and strategically placed large-screen monitors so students can closely watch the instructor prepare everything from hors d’oeuvres to pastries to main courses.

Classes at the culinary center target three groups of potential students: job seekers who are competing with other applicants in the region, incumbent employees who are seeking a way to advance at their workplace, and local residents looking for personal enrichment. Current class offerings that incorporate hands-on culinary lab experiences include foundational skills as well as specialty courses for smoking meat, Mediterranean cuisine, holiday desserts and entrees, and authentic soul food. ServeSafe® teaches basic food preparation, food service terminology and procedures, tools and equipment, food sanitation and safety resulting in certification after passing an exam. A fourth course tackles event planning for meetings, weddings, conferences and conventions. Embedded in all courses are soft skills, people skills, customer service, respect, presentation and work ethic.

BCC planned ahead during the reconfiguration, installing infrastructure to enable remote learning in the future.

“The option of learning virtually with our instructional team in the comfort and safety of your own kitchen has generated a lot of excitement,” Bland says.

An important criteria of the program is consistency. Bland notes, “One of the main lessons that we learned from our local experts is that at an early stage, programs should ensure that students are consistent. Our focus has not been extremely complex. We have been very consistent with preparing a pipeline of talent for our region.”

Long term, BCC intends to offer an associate’s degree in culinary arts and hospitality.

Doug Terhune BCC Culinary School

“With a little skill and passion, graduates from our four Brunswick County high schools can learn culinary arts rather easily,” Terhune says. “The graduates will have been taught basic business skills like purchasing food and supplies, keeping the books, hiring and firing in addition to hands-on cooking and baking. The degree will open the doors to owning a restaurant.”

Terhune, who has gifted the college nearly $168,000 for this program, says for now the main goal of the culinary center is simple: “To help change the lives of as many residents in Brunswick County as we can.” But there is a more profound purpose, too. While he believes that food is utilitarian, Terhune says food is also an expression of creativity and love and an opportunity to express one’s self.

Terhune says he is happy when he is at his grill or stove crafting meals for his family and friends.

“I love cooking Italian food,” he says. “And I do steak on the grill better than any restaurant in the world! My Brunswick stew has received accolades over the years.”

Terhune says he never looks at his time in kitchen as boring, adding, “I never make the same dish twice. I always change it up.”

Douglas Terhune Center for Culinary Arts has recently generated interest from local restaurant owners and individuals. A donation by Bella Cucina, a restaurant in Southport, and a private donation provided scholarships for 23 students, with more expected. Since its inception in 2021, the program has served 38 adults, and Wassum says it is already changing lives.

“We are so pleased to utilize generous gifts from our community to create high-quality learning spaces for our students,” Wassum says. “I am most excited about the progress our current classes of culinary students have made in their existing workplaces due to their participation in the program at BCC. Their successes in the classroom have led to promotions and pay raises which contribute to improving the quality of life for them, their families and their communities. The BCC Foundation is honored to be a part of connecting our community of donors to tangible impacts on the lives of our students.”

Terhune concludes, “Anyone in Brunswick County can help change the life of another person with just a little bit of effort. Want better restaurants in Brunswick County? Better food? Better service? You can be a part of making that happen! And where in world can you change someone’s life for only $485, the cost of one semester?”

Want to know more?
Douglas Terhune Center for Culinary Arts
Brunswick Community College
(800) 754-1050

Photography by Matt McGraw