Monday, February 19, 2018
Business

Columbia restaurateur Richard Gonzmart plans culinary school in Tampa Heights

TAMPA — When Columbia Restaurant Group president Richard Gonzmart heard about the community center planned in an old church in Tampa Heights, he wanted to contribute a $100,000 commercial kitchen for job training.

But the idea fell through after City Hall reminded the Tampa Heights Junior Civic Association that it was renovating the old church without the approval of its owner, the Florida Department of Transportation.

With regret, Gonzmart said it just didn't make sense to go ahead with the kitchen project. In the near term, there was a cease-and-desist order from the city. In the long run, FDOT plans to demolish the church so it can expand Interstate 275's "Malfunction Junction" interchange.

But he did not give up on the idea.

On Thursday, Gonzmart said he has signed a contract to buy an old furniture store on the east side of N Florida Avenue, just north of E Lake Avenue. There he plans to spend an estimated $2 million-plus developing a culinary school for high school students on the site, as well as a bakery, ice cream plant and catering service.

The goal, he said, is to provide job training for the same young people who would have used the kitchen at the Tampa Heights church.

"This would be greater than anything we could have done with the church," he said. "The idea is to try and touch as many lives as we can."

City Council Chairman Frank Reddick welcomed the project.

"It's a great opportunity for the kids in that particular community, because they lost out on the (program) being held at the church," he said.

As the Tampa Bay area's food culture has evolved, training the region's next generation of chefs has emerged as a growing need.

While at least 18 local high schools have launched culinary programs, many students have limited options for learning beyond that.

That's starting to change. Earlier this year, Phil Meola, culinary teacher at Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, and Benito D'Azzo, chef at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, launched Future Chefs Tampa Bay. The program brings schools and the food industry together to help students with internships, jobs and training.

Gonzmart did not disclose the purchase price for the property he's pursuing for his project. Assuming environmental tests don't turn up any problems, he expects to close on the deal by Jan. 12.

Demolition of the existing building on the site would begin soon after. He hopes that the 9,200-square-foot culinary school could be ready for its first students by next fall.

The school is very much a work in progress, but Gonzmart talked of hiring two culinary instructors who are chefs to launch it, and he hopes to enroll about 50 to 60 students.

Gonzmart expects the operation to be a business by day, turning out pies for his revival of Tampa's old Goody Goody restaurant in Hyde Park Village, as well as pastries to sell at Tampa International Airport. Long term, a restaurant could be added to the site.

By night, students would learn the restaurant business.

He said he wants to help students, many from publicly subsidized housing nearby, who might not necessarily go to college or who could face other challenges.

Contact Richard Danielson at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times.

Comments
Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

TAMPA — The mixed-use rebirth of the old Tampa Armature Works warehouse is proceeding in stages. First up: last month’s debut of the new ballroom, followed closely by the opening of more than a dozen vendors in the Heights Public Market food hall.YEA...
Published: 02/19/18
On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

TAMPA — Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart says he’s ready to put his checkbook where his heart is when it comes to supporting a Tampa Bay Rays move to Ybor City.So is the investment fund for the founding family of Ashley Furniture. So, it ap...
Published: 02/19/18

Open-mic night at Pilars is a hot spot for Disney talent

WINTER GARDEN — At the end of the day, when the tourists are gone, Disney performers head out to their favorite spot to keep on singing after their shifts are over. Every Thursday, they perform at open-mic night at Pilars, a Winter Garden martini bar...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Here’s how to separate the fund raisers from frauds among gofundme pages

Here’s how to separate the fund raisers from frauds among gofundme pages

Gofundme.com pages proliferated almost as soon as cops took Nikolas Cruz into custody after Wednesday’s 17-death massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Donors must parse the funding pages from the fraudulent.Read More: 17 dead,...
Published: 02/18/18
Suffolk tops off Manor Riverwalk project

Suffolk tops off Manor Riverwalk project

Building contractor Suffolk topped off the north tower of its Manor Riverwalk project on Friday.The luxury rental community will replace the old Tampa Tribune building at 202 S Parker Street. Once complete, the project will include an eight-story wat...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Trump administration recommends stiff penalties on steel, aluminum imports

Trump administration recommends stiff penalties on steel, aluminum imports

The Tampa arm of Brazilian steelmaker Gerdau S.A. was cautiously optimistic Friday after the Trump administration took a big step toward a policy Gerdau has been vocally advocating for — higher tariffs on imported steel. "We’re hopeful that President...
Published: 02/16/18
Facebook forges ahead with kids app despite expert criticism

Facebook forges ahead with kids app despite expert criticism

Associated PressNEW YORK — Facebook is forging ahead with its messaging app for kids, despite child experts who have pressed the company to shut it down and others who question Facebook’s financial support of some advisers who approved of the app. Me...
Published: 02/16/18
Inexpensive Tampa Bay homes gain the most value of any in U.S.

Inexpensive Tampa Bay homes gain the most value of any in U.S.

Owners of affordable homes in the Tampa Bay region are seeing the biggest gains in equity among the nation’s top 20 housing markets. A bay area home now worth $110,000 rose 20 percent in value over the past year while a house now worth $337,400 incr...
Published: 02/16/18
Amid CareerSource controversy, allegations of a love affair, big raises and family favoritism at the top

Amid CareerSource controversy, allegations of a love affair, big raises and family favoritism at the top

The anonymous letter described a possible love affair at the top of the local jobs center. President and CEO Edward Peachey was in a romantic relationship with top administrator Haley Loeun, it said.It described how Loeun was seen at a conference co...
Published: 02/16/18
Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s experimenting with takeout-only locations

Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba’s experimenting with takeout-only locations

Outback Steakhouse and Carrabba’s Italian Grill have become household names in casual dining. Now, their parent company, Tampa-based Bloomin’ Brands is taking the "dining" part out in a concept that it’s bringing to Tampa Bay for the first time. A ne...
Published: 02/16/18