I can see how the appeal of watching chefs cook might be visually interesting to visitors. But the more I have muddled the thought of a cooking school downtown, the more I am convinced that maybe there’s a different direction to be pursued on that lot. I’m thinking if you want to create culinary tourism, create a culinary destination.
There are several of these around. Viking, for instance, has a handful of cooking schools across the United States, the closest one being in Memphis. There, students pay for a one-time class and learn a little something to take home with them. It’s by far not a professional student experience — but I don’t believe the average tourist is looking for that.
Now, yes, there are some excellent cooking classes offered in Little Rock. Eggshell Kitchen Co. does some fine ones featuring Arkansas chefs. Savory Pantry down in Hot Springs has some outreach like that, too. But to do it hands on downtown… well, there’s another draw.
If someone were to follow through with that idea, I’d suggest they pair the classroom experience with a store featuring Arkansas products and work with area chefs for kitchen tours and the like. I can see the culinary community getting behind something like that. And again, it’d be aimed at bringing more visitors into the downtown area.
There’s my two cents on the matter.