Dave Tine would rather discuss finance than flambe.

The founder and president of Connecticut Culinary Institute said it was the business opportunity-not a love of cooking-that prompted him to open the school 10 years ago.

Sure, he dabbled in cooking and even took some lessons in New York cooking schools.

But Mr. Tine, a former advertising executive, said that for him the Farmington-based school was primarily a business concept. "It was based on a perceived need," he said. "There was no private professional cooking school in the state of Connecticut at the time."

Now Mr. Tine is ready to expand the school and has just received a $550,000 boost of fresh capital from Sterling/Carl Marks Capital Inc., a small-business investment company based in Great Neck, N.Y. It will be the first major injection of outside capital since the Connecticut Culinary Institute's inception.

Mr. Tine and two former partners used their own money to start the school. Connecticut Culinary Institute offers a 12-week chef training program, a 10-week pastry chef training course, a 30-week professional training course, and shorter recreational cooking classes.

The school, which has 40 full- and part-time instructors, has locations in Farmington, Hamden, and Windsor Locks.

Mr. Tine has since bought out his partners and is now the sole owner of the culinary school. This year Mr. Tine realized he needed more than the regular bank line of credit he had been tapping: He needed the money to update the computers, streamline the accounting system, and market the schools.

Mr. Tine said he contacted Sterling/Carl Marks because he had heard that the small-business investment company could provide more flexibility than a traditional bank.

Harvey Granat, Sterling's president, said Connecticut Culinary Institute is the first school his nine-year-old company has funded. But Mr. Tine's management and the school's prospective growth attracted him.

"That's the first thing we look at in an investment," Mr. Granat said. "How committed are they financially, emotionally? Do they have the fire in their belly?"

Mr. Tine said he liked Sterling, which has a total capitalization of $27 million, because it could provide terms for the loan that his bank couldn't.

Mr. Granat said his investment company can customize the loans' terms to the culinary school's cash flow requirements, and principal payments can be deferred.

He said the culinary school has strong potential. Sterling is working with Mr. Tine in finding possible acquisition targets and future financing.

"What we're providing is a form of what I call 'patient capital,'" Mr. Granat said. "It's not put the money in, press a button, and there's instant growth. It has to be nurtured, developed."

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