Expanded program combines business and culinary courses

Do you have an interest in the culinary arts?  Whether it’s learning the difference between a knife and a fork or learning to make sophisticated cuisine, ASU-Heber Springs has you covered.  “We have completely reinvented the hospitality offering,” said adjunct professor Rusty Miller.  “We have expanded the emphasis of the hospitality degree.  Students can branch off into the culinary or business aspects of the field.”

When the hospitality program started two years ago, basic culinary classes were offered.  Now, with the expanded program, the basics will be followed with more advanced cooking techniques and also hospitality business classes.  While the business side of the program has traditionally emphasized hospitality fields such as hotels, the inclusion of the culinary aspect can help aspiring chefs not only learn how to perfect their cooking art, but also the education needed to learn how to turn that art into a successful business.  The program has an internship requirement with local businesses. City leaders and local business owners partner with the university to help give hospitality students real world experience in the field.

Chefs Chris Platt and Michael Tucker will spearhead the culinary classes.  Platt started cooking in the military in 1984.  He got an extensive education in cooking during this time.  “In comparison to the college, I think the military offers a lot more.  You just don’t get a degree with it,” said Platt.  While he was in Iraq, he was asked to take over the dining facility for all the VIPs in Baghdad.  After serving in the military, Platt moved into private industry working for various culinary and catering companies.  After moving to Heber Springs, he took over as executive chef for 2 years at Red Apple Inn.

Michael Tucker got his start in the fast food industry.  “I fell in love with it,” said Tucker.  “Then you get to a point when you want something else.”  Tucker moved on to family dining and spent 13 years working for Shoney’s.  About 9 years ago, Tucker decided the university setting appealed to him and he eventually took an executive chef position at Harding. 

Adjunct professor Rusty Miller has focused his expertise on the hotel/business aspect of the hospitality industry.  During his college years, he worked at area Holiday Inn hotels and after graduation went to work for Holiday Inns, Inc.  He’s also worked for Embassy Suites, Motel 6 corporate, La Quinta Inns, Inc, and Dave & Busters in Dallas.

Those interested in taking some of the classes do not have to be degree-seeking students, but an application to ASU is required to enroll.  Should the student wish to continue their education in the field, they will need to discuss program options with the university. 

ASU has also coordinated with other universities in the state so that, after completing a two-year education here, students can transfer to a four-year university and credits taken during the two-year program will be honored.


Tourism is one of the largest industries in Arkansas and is arguably the most important industry to the entire Greers Ferry Lake area.  Should the proposed water garden come to fruition, it can be expected that the tourism industry will explode and hospitality service will be in increasingly high demand.  Regardless of where they go in the world, the two constants for successful tourism are great places to eat and great places to sleep and the hospitality program here aims to provide well-rounded, educated hospitality students to provide that service for the tourism industry.

Registration is going on right now at ASU-Heber and classes start August 19th.  To learn more about the program and the classes offered, visit http://www.asub.edu/heber-springs/ or call them at 501-362-1100