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Expansion on the horizon for Mitchell Tech's Oak Room

Mitchell Technical Institute. (Republic file photo)

It may soon be easier to get a seat at one of Mitchell Technical Institute's most popular spaces.

The Oak Room — a fine dining experience offered through Mitchell Tech's Culinary Academy — is getting an expansion. Thanks to the recent $1.1 million donation from Dick and Darlene Muth and Muth Electric, the Oak Room will grow— much to the delight of Mitchell diners.

The plan is to expand the footprint of the Oak Room to accommodate more people, according to Julie Brookbank, associate to the president at Mitchell Tech, and allow faculty to be "more nimble" in instruction.

"There's a lot (students) have to learn behind the scenes, but it ultimately comes out on the plate — and it's phenomenal," Brookbank said. " ... This is the only culinary program in South Dakota. If you want to go to the best cooking school in South Dakota, it's right here in Mitchell."

While there's no set timeline on the expansion, Brookbank said the plans are in place and will likely begin in the next couple of years.

The Muth donation will also support upgrades and expansions to MTI's Campus Center and the Technology Center over the next three to five years. But it's the Oak Room expansion that has stirred excitement from people who know about the unique dining experience.

Brookbank said the school gets a lot of calls from people curious about the Oak Room, which is only open in the afternoon for four days a week while school is in session.

And for the core supporters who have been coming in for a long time, Brookbank assured that they will still be treated to the "same high-end experience."

"So what's the deal with this Oak Room?" Brookbank said. "The people who know about it, it really has the reputation and it really has the history."

The Oak Room began in 1969. Located in the school's Campus Center, students working in the space serve approximately 2,000 meals each year. The students rotate positions, including chef, maître d', sous chef and other responsibilities, Brookbank said.

Other than the expansion, Brookbank said not much has changed this year for the Oak Room other than minor cuisine updates.

Popularity for the space remains the same, and to book a table, Brookbank said the earlier diners call, the better. The maximum capacity for the Oak Room is around 40 people, which will increase with the expansion.

While the Oak Room is closed for the semester, it will reopen for the spring semester on Jan. 16. Brookbank said it will remain open through the end of the school year.

"It's a nice little oasis in the middle of your day," Brookbank said. "Prepare to have a nap, probably afterward."

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