Food As Art

Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food, an academic division NorthWest Arkansas Community College, is America’s first regional cooking school. Our focus is hyper-localized and holistic, traversing the entire food experience from crop to cuisine. Infused with artisanal methods like butchery and distillery, Brightwater’s programming offers education and experience previously only acquired through apprenticeship. Brightwater offers students a dynamic educational experience in Culinary Arts, Artisanal Food, Pastry & Baking, and Beverage Management by delivering a combination of technical skills, broad industry knowledge, and specialty cultural exposure.

As a Center for the Study of Food, Brightwater offers the insights and skills needed to positively impact our food system. In addition to gaining cooking proficiency, students will regularly participate in activities and training on culinary nutrition, growing and sourcing food, food waste and recovery, whole-animal butchery, food entrepreneurship, and seasonal cooking. Brightwater is the first culinary school to integrate a food-systems approach and inquiry-based learning to cooking, local farming, sustainability, and community development.

Culinary ArtsArtisanal FoodsBaking & PastryButcheryBeverage ArtsAcademics
Thyme and Olives

Culinary Arts

At Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food, our Culinary Arts program uses an inquiry-based approach to prepare students to be culinary professionals. Our program encourages students to ask questions and experiment in order to facilitate a deep understanding of ingredients and cooking methods. Students will learn how food is grown, transported and processed. They’ll learn the impact of flavor as well as the impact food has on human health and the environment. All Culinary Arts students will participate in growing food at our on-campus farm, will learn butchery and charcuterie skills, methods of food preservation, and will study culinary nutrition following the innovative curriculum developed by the Goldring Center for Culinary Medicine. Culinary skills will be showcased at Brightwater’s on-campus restaurant and through an internship designed to help individuals transition from student to professional. Brightwater strives to encourage our students to be influencers in society by seeing food as a more than just food, but as a connector to culture, art, the environment and our own community.

Course Highlights

  • Food Systems
  • Culinary Nutrition
  • Butchery & Charcuterie
  • Events Catering
Request InfoThyme and Olives
Roasted Carrots With Sea Salt

Artisanal Foods

The Artisanal Foods program at Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food provides students with a comprehensive food system approach and the skills required to prepare hand crafted delicacies using the best of old world techniques and the scientific knowledge of the 21st century. Students will learn the cultural, historical, scientific, and technical underpinnings of their craft, with courses taking students off campus to the field. Our Artisanal Foods program emphasizes the teachings in food preservation, butchery, and artisanal bread baking and builds a strong foundation in culinary skills. Students in this program will be an asset to restaurant or retail kitchens, having specialized knowledge and skills that are in growing demand.

Course Highlights

• Applied Farming
• Seasonal Kitchen
• Butchery & Charcuterie
• Advanced Breads

Request InfoRoasted Carrots With Sea Salt
Powder Sugar Sprinkled Over Pastry

Baking & Pastry

The Baking and Pastry program at Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food provides a strong foundation in the skills necessary to start a career. With a focus on both classic old world methods and modernist techniques, our classes use an inquiry-based approach to help students understand the science and technique behind pastry and baking arts. Students will understand how food is grown, transported and processed through hands-on work in our on-campus greenhouse, milling flour from a variety of grains—all while gaining real world experience in the industry. Whether the goal is patisserie, artisanal bread-baking, cake decorating, or confectionary, Brightwater students emerge with the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed.

Course Highlights

• Chocolate
• Classical Pastries
• Advanced Breads
• Advanced Cakes

Request InfoPowder Sugar Sprinkled Over Pastry
Sliced Flank Steak


Butchery and charcuterie at Brightwater are hallmarks of the school’s program. Butchery and meat fabrication have been largely phased out of U.S. culinary curricula as the foodservice industry sells mostly individual cuts to restaurants. Traditional charcuterie requires specialized equipment and comprehensive food safety plans. Brightwater provides the knowledge and skills needed to butcher and prepare meat. In addition, students learn how these crafts are essential to supporting small farmers and regional food systems.

As the United States has moved from an agro-ecological to agro-industrial approach to farming, we have gained efficiencies in animal production and, together with crop subsidies, have lowered the cost of meat. The results have been damaging—Americans’ are now encouraged to eat less meat to improve their health, antibiotic use in concentrated animal feeding operations keep animals healthy but are viewed as a major threat to human health as antibiotic resistance increases. Animal welfare is a concern across species, despite the latest advances in animal science that help to regulate every aspect of animal care and feeding. Consolidation of meat processing operations leave few options for small livestock farmers across the country seeking to raise and finish animals. Where processing is still available, foodservice professionals lack the knowledge and skills necessary to evaluate quality, butcher whole carcasses, and utilize all parts effectively on a menu.

Brightwater is beginning a paradigm shift in culinary education designed to support regional food systems. Highly-skilled instructors, a temperature-controlled room and specialized equipment allow aspiring chefs and professional chefs to learn the art of whole animal butchery and how to use and market the entire carcass effectively in a variety of different foodservice operations. Students will learn how to age beef, make a full range of cured products from fermented sausages to American prosciutto. All Culinary and Artisanal Food majors at Brightwater are required to take Butchery & Charcuterie. Intensive workshops are offered for professional chefs. Weeklong programs begin with tours of livestock operations and conversations with farmers and meat processors.

Request InfoSliced Flank Steak
Hop Plant

Beverage Arts

Beverage Arts students at Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food are prepared to work as sommeliers and mixologists, graduating with certifications in beer, wine, and spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust and Cicerone. But it’s not only about certifications and skills. Beverage arts students understand that craft beverages start in the ground and learn about the processes that convert raw ingredients into complex beverages.

Beverage arts students share foundational classes with culinary and pastry students as they begin their journey to understanding the development of flavor. Students will be able to evaluate the flavor and quality of wine, beer and spirits and understand the components of craft cocktails. Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared for a variety of careers in the beverage industry.

Course Highlights

• Art of Fermentation
• Beer
• Advanced Wine
• Advanced Spirits

Request InfoHop Plant
Bread Roll With Flour Sprinkles

Academic & Assessment Innovation

Brightwater will change the paradigm of culinary arts education in the United States through the use of technology, micro-credentialing, e-portfolios, and competency-based education. The curricular pillars emphasized in every course include food systems, entrepreneurship, inquiry-based learning, professionalism, cost control, and food safety. Furthermore, the potential for collaboration is boundless with three neighboring educational institutions—The Thaden School, Bentonville’s Ignite Program, and Crystal Bridges’ new modern art facility, which focuses on the visual arts, performance arts, and the culinary arts.

Request InfoBread Roll With Flour Sprinkles