Alex Erdmann, a German Certified Master Chef with leadership experience in both the tourism and higher education sectors, has been appointed Valencia College’s new dean of the School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality and will oversee the school’s A.S. degrees in both Orange and Osceola counties.
Erdmann joins the college as the Walt Disney School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality (currently on West Campus) – prepares to move into a larger space at Valencia College’s Downtown Campus which is slated to open in fall 2019. The move comes as demand for hospitality and culinary workers is expected to grow by 10.8 percent in Central Florida through 2023.
“Valencia College is a natural center for hospitality and culinary education in Orlando; you’re right in the middle of it. You’re exposed to the whole industry,” says Erdmann, referring to Orlando’s status as a leading global tourism destination. Beyond the parks and location, the new dean expressed an appreciation for the cultural diversity enriching the area.
“You have all of this authentic food and culture that is not watered down,” says Erdmann – who, in his first month at Valencia College, has enjoyed a wide range of local cuisine, including traditional Cuban, Turkish and Venezuelan fare.
Erdmann’s history of tackling complex projects prepares him to usher the college’s tourism-centric degrees into a new, world-class facility downtown. The German-born chef gained project-management experience by building several culinary/hospitality schools and in Florida, scaling up cruise line kitchen operations as the industry sought to build ever-larger ships.
In the world of higher education, Erdmann brings ample experience in the design of culinary and hospitality programs. He oversaw service and quality assurance for the Nutrition Department at University of Arkansas’ medical school in Little Rock, where he also implemented a food composting program that, in its first year, diverted 100,000 pounds of food waste from the landfill.
In Chicago, as the director of culinary arts at Lexington College, he opened a new professional lab, complete with demo kitchens. Now at Valencia College, Erdmann has high hopes for the school’s culinary and hospitality programs.
“There is no better place to build a culinary school than downtown Orlando. Students will have the opportunity to be surrounded by ample opportunities, where they can apprentice or even work while at school,” says Erdmann.
The Walt Disney World School of Culinary Arts and Hospitality will occupy three floors of the downtown student housing tower, boasting state of the art classrooms and cutting-edge equipment. Students will have access to a demo kitchen as well as the opportunity to work in an event space on the ground floor. Given the spaciousness of the new quarters, Erdmann expects considerable growth when the program moves downtown in fall 2019.
“When planning, I’m not only looking at how things are currently, but how they will be ten years ahead,” says Erdmann.