College culinary program abandons restaurant plan
The Brunswick News
By SARAH LUNDGREN
June 6, 2014

College of Coastal Georgia announced Thursday that it is retreating from its plan to operate Fins restaurant on Jekyll Island.

The announcement was not good news to Jekyll Island Authority, which had closed the island's only oceanside restaurant Nov. 1, 2013 and was awaiting its takeover by the college's culinary and business schools.

The college and Jekyll Island began discussing bringing the college's culinary program up from Camden County to the island restaurant, formerly known as Blackbeard's, in May 2013. The two entities had been working through lease agreements since September to put the student-led program in place.

But now, it's not to be, and the culinary program will remain at the college's campus in Kingsland and the restaurant will remain closed.

In a joint press release from the college and the Jekyll Island Authority, the college explained that the culinary program is currently in the middle of a five-year continuing reaccredidation process which includes a comprehensive review of its culinary curriculum.

The process is expected to go well, but it's a lengthy and detailed process, said John Cornell, the college's public relations and marketing director.

"We deeply appreciate the Jekyll Island Authority's willingness to work with us to partner with all of the exciting developments on Jekyll Island," said Greg Aloia, president of the college. "Executive Director Jones Hooks and the Jekyll Island Authority are to be commended for their leadership and vision for this region."

The Jekyll Island Authority staff is expected to recommend during the meeting of the authority's board this month the issuing of a request for proposal for the operation of the restaurant, which in the past had been managed by the authority.

Hooks said he feels letdown, but not just for himself.

"The concept for a student-operated restaurant was met with great excitement in the community," Hooks said. "We are disappointed that it did not work out but will continue to build our strong relationship with the college and the University System of Georgia to bring beneficial educational opportunities to Jekyll Island."

Cornell said the relationship between Jekyll Island and the college, which began to blossom during the college presidency of Valerie Hepburn, will continue, even though the college will not take over the operation of Fins.

The $150,000 in funds committed to the program by the college's foundation will remain with the foundation for the time being.

"It was an exciting opportunity," said Skip Mounts, dean of the school of business and public affairs. "But at this juncture, the college needs to focus on continuing accreditation efforts and curricular review. We regret not being able to take advantage of it."

The college administration plans to evaluate the culinary program as a whole alongside the college's offerings in recreation, tourism and hospitality management during its strategic planning process this fall.

"We'll be looking at the program as a whole and look to see where it can best benefit the local community," Cornell said.

* Reporter Sarah Lundgren writes about education and other local topics. Contact her at slundgren@thebrunswicknews.com.