Almost before it could get started, Orlando’s newest culinary school is shutting down. Professional Culinary Institute, which was using the facilities of Doc’s restaurant on South Orange Avenue, is in the midst of its first wine education program. According to sources close to the operation, the current course will finish its 11-week run. But plans to begin classes in food preparation for aspiring chefs have been scrapped, I’m told. The school’s Web site says culinary arts and pastry and baking arts classes begin at the Orlando school April 30th, but those classes have not started.
A woman who answered the phone at the Orlando PCI earlier today was still taking reservations for an open house scheduled for Saturday. But this afternoon the phone went unanswered.
The school’s closing will leave the Doc’s facility virtually empty. The restaurant, which once boasted the talents of nationally recognized Neil Connolly as its chef, closed to the dining public earlier this year. For the last few years the office complex that houses Doc’s has been tapped for an on-again, off-again hotel.
The school has been on shaky ground for months. It had already lost its wine program director, Andrew McNamara. McNamara, a master sommelier, had been hired away from the Breakers in Palm Beach late last year to lead PCI’s wine program. McNamara gave his notice to the school’s administrators a couple of months ago and has since accepted a position with a wine purveyor and has returned to South Florida.
PCI is based in Campbell, Calif.; the Orlando campus was to be its second location.