Gourmet Bargains: Creative culinary teams offer discount dining

2014-05-14T00:00:00Z 2014-05-15T18:03:03Z Gourmet Bargains: Creative culinary teams offer discount diningCarrie Steinweg Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
May 14, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Perhaps you’ve gone to a beauty school at some point where a student has cut or styled your hair at a discounted price. It’s a great way to get a service at a good deal and help support their learning experience.

Did you know that there are similar opportunities to dine at a discount on meals prepared by students that rival those found in the Region’s fanciest of eateries?

Don’t be scared off by the fact the meal isn’t being prepared by a veteran cook or staff. Dining through a program at one of the area’s culinary or hospitality programs means getting the experience of a fine dining, downtown-caliber restaurant without paying the price tag of one.

Some programs offer once a week-dining while others are open several days a week. South Bend’s Ivy Tech campus recently held the 12th annual culinary arts dinner attended by just over 230. At this once a year event, students in the two-year hospitality or culinary arts programs handle all the details. “The students do everything. They develop the menu, order and purchase the food and pick a theme and design around it,” said Gina Wilimitis, Director of Resource Development. This year’s theme was “Big Italy.”

At Ivy Tech’s East Chicago campus, a dining room is converted into a classy restaurant during the second half of each semester on Thursday evenings. Seatings are available from 4:45 until 6:30.

Elida Abeyta, Program Chair for the Hospitality Program said that they have a regular crowd of diners who have supported the program for years. Each week the students, under the direction of Chef Beverly Seleb are given a themed topic. A four-course meal is offered for $20, which includes an appetizer, a soup or salad and a choice of two entrees and two desserts. Look for dinners to start up again in the fall.

“Sometimes what we try to do to showcase our students is find an event where students can do table service in the community, like at a church, and it’s a practice run for them.”

Carol Baisden oversees the Culinary Club and teaches Baking Merchandise and offers events like cookie walks and special days where the dining room is turned into a bakery and student-made items are available for purchase.

While Purdue Calumet doesn’t have a culinary arts program, there is a restaurant open one day a week that is part of the Hospitality and Tourism Management Department. Each Wednesday during the course of the semester, lunch and dinner are offered by reservation at the Hospitality and Tourism Management building.

A regular menu with rotating specials is offered for the lunch crowd, while dinners revolve around a theme, country or culture. For more than 30 years, the program has successfully operated serving lunches and dinners to those in the community, with the lunches attended heavily by university staff.

The $20 all inclusive 3- or 4-course meal is created by a downtown chef that is brought in for the semester. Chefs come from different culinary schools or hospitality organizations. According to Michael Flannery, Head of the White Lodging School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, the most recent semester has been overseen by a chef from the Hilton Corporation.

“It’s a pretty good meal that you’re getting. It includes beverages and dessert and tax and everything. It’s a bargain,” said Flannery. To get on Purdue’s mailing list for upcoming dinners this fall, call (219) 989-2340.

A recent Southern Italy-themed dinner menu included Shallot and Goat Cheese Turnover Pastry with crust, shallots, balsamic vinegar, honey, and goat cheese followed by a pasta and chick pea soup and an Italian Garden Salad of Romaine lettuce, artichoke hearts, bell pepper, carrots, onions, black and green olives, cucumber, grated Romano cheese, and an herbal vinaigrette dressing. Entree selections were a Balsamic Glazed Flank Steak or Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushroom with Spaghetti Squash. The meal was finished off with orange panna cotta.

The spring lunch menu included such items as bruschetta chicken and Parmesan crusted tilapia at just $6 per entree. Soup was an additional $2 and a side salad was $2.75. Three dessert options were just $2 each.

In Glen Ellyn, Ill., on the campus of the College of DuPage, you’ll find Waterleaf, which is part of the Culinary and Hospitality Center open Wednesday through Sunday with lunch, dinner and brunch seatings, but run by a professional kitchen staff. Known for its award-winning wine list, it overlooks a pond and has a small student-run hotel on its upper level. Weekly internationally-themed menus are available. A prix-fixe three-course dinner is also available each evening for $35. Visit http://www.cod.edu/w/waterleaf.htm for more information.

The student-run Wheat Cafe offers fine dining for lunch Wednesday through Fridays for $15 and dinner reservations can be made for regional cuisine dinners on Wednesday and Thursday for $22 per person. Visit http://www.cod.edu/programs/culinary/dine.aspx for additional information.

Kendall College in Chicago is another place where you can enjoy a exquisite meal at a fraction of the cost of other downtown dining establishments. The dining room is open with lunch and dinner service through mid-June. There’s also a Monday Night Dining Series running through June 9. And if you want to get a little training yourself, there are also home chef cooking classes available.

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