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Yves Veggie Cuisine founder Yves Potvin buys culinary school

Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts has been on the market for a while
Students at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts work in a busy kitchen atmosphere | submitted

Meat-alternative entrepreneur Yves Potvin has bought a majority stake in Vancouver’s Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts (PICA) from founder Sue Singer, who has moved to Ontario, while longtime PICA chef Julian Bond has purchased a minority stake.

No purchase price was disclosed and Business in Vancouver has heard from people close to the deal that it is unlikely that the school will get any major changes, at least in the short term.

Potvin, who was not immediately available for an interview, is not expected to change the format of the school to give it a vegetarian focus.

He said in a release that he plans to complement the current curriculum with nutrition studies and sustainable practices and implement new educational technologies.

“I see culinary schools as both the backbone of the professional side of the industry and as a menu of change for the industry itself,” he said.

Although Potvin trained as a classical French chef in his native Quebec, he gained fame in B.C. in the 1980s, when he invented the veggie wiener and saw sales surge at his Yves Veggie Cuisine business.

Sales hit $35 million in 2002 and he sold the venture to Hain Celestial Group (Nasdaq:HAIN) in 2003 for a sum that Potvin would not provide, but which BIV has previously reported to be $54.1 million.

He then founded Gardein Protein International, which sold its own proprietary type of meatless proteins.

Gardein was then sold in 2014 to Pinnacle Foods Inc. (NYSE:PF) for $175 million, although it was unclear how much of the company Potvin owned at the time.

Pinnacle said in 2014 that it expected Gardein to generate $65 million in annual sales.

“Having a seasoned food entrepreneur and former chef, such as Yves, as president of PICA speaks to the legacy and future of the school,” said Bond.

“He brings a wealth of business acumen, experience and most importantly, a passion for food and innovation. We’re thrilled to have Yves join the PICA team.”

Singer told BIV in an email that she officially sold the school and retired as of June 30, 2017, and the new owners took over the next day. It has just taken nine months for the school to officially announce the ownership change.

"After 20 years in business, I am so happy in my retirement life," she said. "I feel most proud of the 3,000 graduates, during my tenure, and some of their success stories are amazing."

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