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Paragon Culinary School expands into shared space with the Briarhurst Manor Estate 

click to enlarge VICTOR MATTHEWS
  • Victor Matthews
Chef/distiller/educator Victor Matthews recently announced an expansion of Paragon Culinary School (paragonculinaryschool.org), which has been based for the last nine years at the local Youth With a Mission headquarters at 505 Popes Bluff Trail, also home to Kairos Coffee House. Though they’ll maintain office space there with some teaching space as well, Matthews says he’s moving several classes in his curriculum to the Briarhurst Manor Estate (404 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, briarhurstdining.com).

To be clear, the Briarhurst will offer shared space and maintain its regular dinner and event programming, but Matthews says he’s taking advantage of times during the weekdays when the Briarhurst’s kitchen was sitting idle. Plus, he says, “This place matches our overview philosophically — the training we do, the history of the culinary arts, how we do the master chef training, Escoffier, old-school stuff.”

He’s referring to the regal Victorian manor house, originally built by the founder of Manitou Springs in 1876, that has been converted to a big banquet space and an intimate restaurant. He and the Briarhurst’s owners have discussed mutually beneficial overlaps, he says, including training for their staff via Paragon classes as well as a chance for his students to “jump in and help out if we can — all work together — eventually on my dream list is a students’ night where they could do chef’s tables and pair wines, etc.”

Location Details Briarhurst Manor Estate
404 Manitou Ave.
Manitou Springs/Ute Pass
Manitou Springs, CO
685-1864
Gourmet/eclectic

Behind all of this though, is a need to grow and expand, says Matthews. “I’ve never seen a boom like this anywhere I’ve been, or here the last 15 years,” he says. Not only is Paragon working with several school districts through the Pikes Peak Business & Education Alliance, trying to help prep high school students for potential culinary careers and immediate jobs, but Matthews says he could place 40 to 50 people in work now based on queries he’s gotten but can’t fill. He says many of his students (35 or so at present) are already working two jobs in the field. And he and people he’s consulted with believe in the next few years as the Springs continues to grow, upwards of 1,000 kitchen jobs will need filling based on both hotel and restaurant growth.

He’d like to grow Paragon’s student body so the Springs doesn’t have to outsource: “I want good jobs for people here. No matter what I do, I can’t train 1,000, but maybe I can do 200 or 300 and hopefully others will plug in.”

Meanwhile, Matthews’ Black Bear Distillery (blackbeardistillery.com) recently took home a gold medal from the Los Angeles International Spirits Competition for the second year in a row in the Best Single Barrel American Whiskey 10 Years or Less category for its Irish Style Whiskey. Matthews also hopes to expand the small distillery’s capacity from around 2,500 cases annually to 5,000 with new fermenting tanks soon to be installed.

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