Student chef competition Missoula College

Missoula College student Katie Barnes works ingredients into a mixer in the culinary arts kitchen in January 2017. Chef Thomas Campbell, who stepped down in 2018 as director of the program, looks on in this photo.

Missoula College will shutter its long running catering operation, and the director of Culinary Arts will step down as department chair, according to a UM official.

Dean Roger MacLean said closure of the catering shop is an effort to streamline operations of the college and main campus, and he does not anticipate it will affect students.

"With Seth (UM President Seth Bodnar) coming on board, we're really trying to find more efficiencies and less duplication of efforts," MacLean said Friday.

Many UM departments and programs are undergoing changes, including employee reductions, as part of an effort to address a budget crunch from an ongoing enrollment drop. The Culinary Arts program has racked up national awards, and MacLean said it will continue to provide quality programs for students.

Chef Thomas Campbell, who oversaw the massive move of the industrial kitchen from its old facility on South Avenue to the new one at Missoula College, will step down as head of the program, MacLean said. He said Campbell will continue as a faculty member.

"He is such a hard worker and such a perfectionist," MacLean said. "I think he just wants to take a step back and clear his head and get re-engaged with the students."

He said UM and the college will decide who will chair the program, which will continue to have two full-time tenured faculty. However, MacLean said the program used to count three or four adjunct faculty, and it likely will have two fewer adjuncts.

The program accepts a cohort of 20 students into Culinary Arts, with as many as 40 at the college at one time, MacLean said. The summer cohort counted 15 students, and so far, another 18 are enrolled for fall, he said.

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"We may have 20 by the time classes start," MacLean said of the fall cohort.

He didn't have immediately available an estimate of how much total money the catering closure would save the college. But he said the college will save in personnel because the person who ran the catering operation will not return.

MacLean also said one chef in the program accepted a job at another organization, and UM will work to replace that faculty member.

As Culinary Arts closes its catering shop, MacLean said he doesn't believe the students will see a difference. Recently, he said, most students wanting to fulfill the catering requirement for their degrees did so through the main UM campus or a private catering company.

MacLean has served as dean of the UM School of Extended and Lifelong Learning.

In December, the former dean of Missoula College confirmed she took a voluntary buyout from UM, and UM appointed an interim dean, who is no longer on the job. Currently, MacLean said he has a one-year appointment to oversee the college as campus leaders look for ways Missoula College and the School of Extended and Lifelong Learning can collaborate. He has been in the role for roughly a couple of months.

"With Seth on board now and (Provost) Jon Harbor coming Aug. 1, I think there's going to be some exciting changes on campus," MacLean said.

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