Introduction to The Texas Center for Wine & Culinary Arts
By Terry Thompson-Anderson
Chef, Cookbook Author and TCWCA Board Member
Food and wine lovers everywhere, let me whet your palates for what’s coming to the Texas Hill Country with the construction of the long-awaited Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, Inc. (TCWCA) in the heart of Fredericksburg.
This is a project that has been in the works for almost six years, with many months of feasibility studies, planning, preparation of budgets, endless committee meetings on the various facets of the center, site selection, and much other ado representing hours of work by our all-volunteer board of directors.
TCWCA will offer the most comprehensive view of Texas food and wine available in one place in the state. Fredericksburg has long been a favorite destination for tourism in Texas, and now is ranked second only behind Napa Valley as one of the fastest growing wine travel destinations in the U.S. A great part of this booming popularity is the burgeoning Texas wine industry in the Texas Hill Country, and the growing reputation of Central Texas as a culinary haven. So it was a natural conclusion to the feasibility study that the center be located in this popular region.
So what will the center offer? Quite simply, everything for the food and wine lover, plus invaluable professional opportunities. The center will feature a large tasting room where visitors can taste on a rotating basis wines produced in the great state of Texas. Perhaps you’ve heard rave reviews about a wine produced in the Texas High Plains, or in the Big Bend country, but since the region is not on your regular schedule, you’ve never been able to taste those wines. At the tasting room, you’ll be able to taste them all. The tasting room will also give the Texas wine industry the ability to bring groups of food and wine writers to taste the big picture of Texas wine, as well as chefs and wine bar owners from around the state to taste Texas wines, thereby broadening their visibility on restaurant wine lists around the state. The tasting room will become a regular stop for wine tour services.
The TCWCA will offer three culinary classrooms. One will be a theater-style classroom with a raised center stage that will offer avocational 2-3 hour cooking classes on myriad subjects presented by some of the state’s (and out-of-the-state) best chefs and cookbook authors. This classroom will also host wine and food pairing classes conducted by some of the top winemakers in Texas, as well as wine education classes ranging from beginning wine drinkers, to serious sessions involving tasting and evaluating wines, as well as food and wine pairing classes. Classes for training winery tasting room personnel will be offered, as well as hospitality training for professional waitpersons. Certificates will be given for these classes, allowing the graduates to earn a higher wage because of top professional training. Restaurants and wineries will benefit greatly from the program, which will allow them to offer extraordinary professional service to their diners and customers. It is anticipated that this classroom will benefit from convention groups meeting in Austin and San Antonio, and classes could be included in professional wine tours.
The second classroom will consist of six fully-equipped kitchen stations, each accommodating six students, with a central station for the instructor. This classroom will offer extended classes ranging from three-day seminars, to two-week concentrated classes for the more serious culinarians, on subjects ranging from pastry and baking (including artisan breads), to charcuterie, wild game preparation, kitchen “boot camps” to teach young people living on their own for the first time how to cook, young women, and newly single men, etc. Imagine the pleasure of an extended stay in the beautiful Texas Hill Country while learning to prepare delicious food and learn the intricacies of wine. This kitchen will also be a great venue for corporate team-building activities and professional development and continuing education referrals from restaurants and high schools.
The third classroom will be one that will be popular with males visiting the Hill Country. It will consist of a fully-equipped outdoor grilling and barbecuing kitchen. The center will bring in the pit-masters from the state’s most famous barbecue “joints” to teach their craft, as well as chefs who will teach students how to grill anything from the perfect burger to fish and shellfish. These classes will be offered on Saturdays and will be the perfect activity for husbands and significant others who don’t wish to shop Fredericksburg’s many retail venues. Win-Win Saturdays where the ladies get to shop, the men get to hone their backyard barbecue skills, and everyone benefits back home around the backyard grill!
And, there’s more. TCWCA will also house a tapas-style bistro with a menu of small plates prepared using Texas food products such as artisan cheeses, olive oils, charcuterie, grass-fed meats, pastured chicken, all-natural produce, etc. The small menu will change weekly. Each plate will feature a suggested wine pairing, with a Texas wine, of course. Or, if your chosen plate is perfect for a particular varietal, then you can try a flight of three of that varietal from different wineries, showing the wide-ranging styles of winemaking using a single grape variety. What could be more enjoyable to a group of food and wine loving friends than to pile the table with small plates with well-paired wines and compare?
There will also be a retail store, operated on a lease arrangement by an outside entity, offering kitchen equipment, Texas specialty food items, cookbooks and books on wine-related subjects, and wine accessories.
The Texas Center for Wine & Culinary Arts, Inc. will also work with local high schools to provide entry-level training for high school students interested in a possible career in the culinary/wine industries.
TCWCA will provide an event space to accommodate 700-750 people at a seated dinner with a full catering kitchen. This 10,500 sq.ft. ballroom space will also be sub-dividable to accommodate smaller groups for conferences — providing meeting space, dining space, tradeshow space and breakout rooms. It is anticipated that this catering kitchen can also provide revenue to the center by offering use to small food product developers, recipe testers, and others who need a certified kitchen in which to work.
What an incredible opportunity to learn so much in one place while having fun, eating the best of Texas foods, and sampling the wealth of Texas wines! The Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts, Inc. will become a magnet for food and wine lovers everywhere. Get on our list of fans and help make the center become a reality.