When stepping inside Brightwater: A Center for the Study of Food for the first time, visitors see its uniquely culinary-focused design – everything meticulously planned around food, from the classrooms and temperature controlled walk-in wine cellar to the ceilings and art. Behind the scenes, classrooms offer state-of-the art technology including a high-tech cooking theater with live-stream capabilities. Their mission “food as art, food as business, and food as wellness” echoes throughout the facility.  

Formerly a Tyson Foods plant, Brightwater occupies the north end of Bentonville’s Eighth Street Market, a food hub and driving force behind Northwest Arkansas’ ever-expanding culinary culture. The hub is home to a diverse group of tenants including numerous restaurants and food trucks, an award-winning chocolate shop, an artisanal cheese shop, a brewery, and a textile studio, attracting locals and tourists alike to take part in all it has to offer. The Eighth Street Market exposes Brightwater students to real-life examples of creativity, entrepreneurship and community engagement. 

Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and the American Culinary Federation, Brightwater was conceived to be more than a typical cooking school. As an academic department of NorthWest Arkansas Community College (NWACC), it offers uniquely holistic programming with academic and career training in the areas of culinary nutrition, artisanal food, beverage management, and food entrepreneurship. Meant to be the culinary epicenter of Bentonville and surrounding communities, it provides world-class training for individuals, students, and professionals at any point on their journey. 

Brightwater also offers the insights and skills needed to positively impact our food system. In addition to gaining cooking proficiency, students 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. Assembling a core group of chef instructors and culinary professionals, the programs teach and inspire students, industry professionals, and the general public in an innovative educational setting.

The center breaks the mold by focusing on the larger food system, culinary skills, wellness, and strengthening local food networks to change the paradigm of culinary education. Aptly named after an apple variety indigenous to Arkansas, Brightwater’s focus is hyper-localized and holistic, traversing the entire food experience from crop to cuisine. Infused with artisanal methods like whole animal butchery, its programming offers education and experience previously only acquired through apprenticeship. It uniquely 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.

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